Chief challenges Airmen to go back to basics

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Robert Ellis
  • 39th Air Base Wing command chief
Innovation is one of the things that sets the Air Force apart from other services; it gives us the distinction of being known as the world's premier air, space and cyberspace force.

I just left an assignment at Langley Air Force Base, Va., where the world's first fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 Raptor, wows onlookers with its capabilities daily. Our Air Force boasts a vast array of power but possessing the greatest capabilities in the world is useless until we put them in the hands of our finest Airmen!

Each and everyday I serve I am awed by the amazing talents our Airmen possess. As I visit workcenters, I find some of our most junior Airmen serving in positions formerly held by noncommissioned officers, and likewise, I see NCOs serving in positions formerly held by senior NCOs. They are not struggling to get the job done either, they are serving with excellence. This is not just at Incirlik but a trend I've notice across the Air Force.

In addition, I've noticed a pervasive attitude of Airmen doing their best to get the job done with reduced resources, increased reliance on technology, and increased deployment and operations tempo.

In the midst of this transformation, I've seen our focus shift away from some of the "basic" things that made us successful. I think we need to refocus our attention on some of those "basics."

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley recently published an Enlisted Perspective entitled "Blocking and Tackling." In his article, he stated the following: "There is one thing that is common to all successful (football) teams, they all practice and perform the basics very well: blocking and tackling."

We are no different; as a team of America's finest Airmen, we are trained in our specialties, taught core values, professionalism, customs and courtesies, compliance to high standards, military bearing and leadership. These are just a few of our "basics"... our fundamentals. Regardless of the challenges we are facing today, we need to turn our focus back to these things.

We need leaders who will reach out and teach the next generation of Airmen not only how to do a specialized job, but how to be professional Airmen and leaders. We need leaders who realize their task is demanding and that it is a self-sacrifice to invest in others.

Yes, the sacrifice is great and the cost is often expensive, but you cannot beat the return on investment. We cannot depend on someone else to grow and develop our Airmen ... that's our job as supervisors and leaders.

I believe our young Airmen get it initially, because we teach them the "basics" when they enter our Air Force, but where do they lose it? Workcenters that have lost sight of the "basics?" Perhaps, but no matter how busy we get, we absolutely cannot afford to lose sight of the "basics" when it comes to growing and developing our Airmen.

I believe our workcenters should be advanced "blocking and tackling" stations for our Airmen, a place where we enhance their fundamentals and provide them with not only the building blocks, but the road maps to become successful Airmen and citizens.

I challenge each one of you to join me as we turn our focus back to the "basics" as a team and, as we do so, I believe we can achieve even greater success as America's Airmen answering our nation's call ... Above All!