HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. – October 2, 2015 — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody visited thousands of Air Commandos Sept. 28-30.
Their visit included several roundtable discussions, lunch with Airmen and an all call with Hurlburt Field personnel.
During the all call, Welsh and Cody thanked everyone for the hard work they do to make the Air Force great.
“You should be so proud of what you do,” Cody said. “Nobody else does what you do.”
To demonstrate this, Welsh asked all the young Airmen in the hangar to raise their hands and randomly selected Airman 1st Class Charles Swem, a 1st Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter, to come forward.
Welsh asked, “Charles, if the building caught on fire, who would be the most important person to save?”
Slightly uncomfortable, Swem replied, “You, sir?”
Welsh went on to explain how that’s not true and in that instance, the most important people to save are the young Airmen.
“Unlike me, they still have a long future in the Air Force ahead of them,” Welsh said. “I’m on my way out.”
Going forward, Welsh said he wants everyone to focus on three aspects to make the Air Force better: common sense, communication and caring.
There are a lot of things happening in the Air Force that just don’t make sense anymore, Welsh said.
“If you are doing something today that doesn’t pass the common sense test, change it,” he said. “Nobody else knows your job better than you, so if you see a rule, policy or technical order that doesn’t make sense, bring it to your supervisor and commander.”
When it comes to communication, Welsh voiced concerns about how easily false information can spread through social media. He emphasized that factual information can be found on the Air Force’s official website.
“We have to educate and train our Airmen on how to communicate properly, and where to get their facts,” he said. “If your Airman has a question, get them a factual answer. Use your chain of command. Email us if you need to.”
Closing out the three aspects, Welsh named several problems the service is having that could potentially be solved if Airmen at all levels cared more. These problems include sexual harassment, assault, disrespect, exclusion, and suicide.
“We need to care more about ourselves and each other,” Welsh said. “Think about your brothers and sisters in arms and your families. They are the greatest people in the world. You can’t care too much about them.”
Later on, several Airmen asked questions related to policy like modernization, acquisitions and budget. However, one question was quite personal as an Airman asked Welsh and Cody how they make tough decisions, and asked for advice on how he could do the same.
Welsh said he focuses on how the decision will affect one single Airman.
“First, you have to get smart and do your homework on the issue,” he said. “But when it comes down to making the decision, narrow it down to just one Airman, and figure out how it will affect them. Then, follow your heart and do what you feel is right.
“I trust you to make the right decision,” the general continued. “I trust every supervisor and every person in this room. All you need to do is trust yourself.”
In the end, both leaders expressed why they do what they do as Welsh directed everyone’s attention to Swem — the random Airman from earlier in the all call.
“I met you only about an hour ago, but I would die for you, Charles,” Welsh said. “And, I’m just naïve enough to think you would do the same for me. That’s why we’re here. And, that’s why we wear this uniform.”