MARCH 17, 2015, OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. (AFNS) – Airmen were not short on questions during Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody’s visit to Offutt Air Force Base March 11-12.
It was clear, serving in the Air Force with an ever-changing environment has created challenges, but for its highest ranking enlisted Airman those obstacles are his priority.
“We are currently the smallest Air Force in the history of the Air Force, yet we are more globally engaged today than ever before,” Cody said. “We are in the longest sustained combat operations in the history of our country and for the first time ever we are doing that with an all professional volunteer force … It is my job to represent you and help influence and shape the things that are important to our Air Force.”
The 55th Wing is no stranger to the combat environment. Its assets and Airmen have been deployed nonstop for nearly 25 years, and according to Cody, the wing will not see a significant decrease anytime in the near future.
“The idea that as we reduce the footprint on the ground in Afghanistan, there would be a measurable reduction in the operations tempo is not really the reality,” Cody said. “That region has been extremely critical to us and is going to remain critical. To have our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets and Airmen engaged there is essential for the security of our nation and our partners.”
Because of the wing’s prominent ISR mission, it was recently transitioned from the 12th Air Force to the newly established 25th Air Force, previously known as the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency.
“The effort there was to align ISR resources for our combat air forces and provide a level of synergy within an organizational structure,” Cody said. “All the feedback we have received thus far says we met the objective very quickly as a result.”
Offutt’s Airmen were seemed interested to hear about big picture Air Force issues such as the uncertainty Airmen may be feeling over the future of their benefits. Cody addressed how budget constraints have had a huge impact.
“We are the best compensated military we have ever been,” he said. “Everything our Airmen and families receive today, they have earned. But the idea that we will be able to continue on the rate of growth is not sustainable. We do not want to reduce or cut anything, but we have to be realistic. It can’t continue to grow at the same rate it has and remain sustainable.”
There have also been many recent changes to the enlisted performance report with a larger focus on performance.
“First and foremost, the American people expect us to perform our mission,” Cody said. “So it has to be the first thing we do and the first thing we are good at, that is why we have prioritized it that way. In no way, shape or form in the profession of arms, are we walking away from the whole person concept. But it is not first; it is after people are doing their job well.”
In recent years, the Air Force has also seen a huge push for education in resiliency with the implementation of quarterly Comprehensive Airmen Fitness days. CAF focuses on sustaining four pillars of fitness which are mental, physical, social and spiritual wellbeing.
“We are trying to be very deliberate about reinforcing the information and approaching this in the manner that we are, so Airmen realize that what they are going through in their military service is not necessarily unique to them,” Cody said. “Many Airmen and families have gone through it before and there are resources to help them through this. We want to have a very strong resilient force because the nation needs us to be strong and resilient.”
Cody added that by focusing on CAF and providing periodic training, over time, the culture and environment will change and it will become second nature.
As for the environment at Offutt, Cody said he was impressed by the Airmen within the wing and tenant units.
“We have had the great opportunity to chat with some really motivated Airmen who are really proud of what they do and are extremely knowledgeable,” Cody said. “It seems pretty clear to me they understand how their mission connects to what we are doing in our Air Force. You could really see that pride.”