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SecAF tours McConnell, mentors Airmen

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks with Airmen during an all call, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. James used her visit to mentor Airmen and learn about the base’s missions during several events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks with Airmen during an all call, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. James used her visit to mentor Airmen and learn about the base’s missions during several events. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks with Airmen, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. A meet and greet with maintenance personnel was one of James’ first stops during her visit to McConnell. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks with Airmen, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. A meet and greet with maintenance personnel was one of James’ first stops during her visit to McConnell. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Thornbury)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has lunch with Airmen, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The lunch was one of several events in which James interacted with Airmen while at McConnell. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James has lunch with Airmen, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. The lunch was one of several events in which James interacted with Airmen while at McConnell. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Tara Fadenrecht)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks with Airmen, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. During her visit to the base, James interacted with Airmen in several different ways, one of which was her first speed mentoring session, where she had two-way conversations with small groups of Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jenna K. Caldwell)

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James speaks with Airmen, July 29, 2016, at McConnell Air Force Base, Kan. During her visit to the base, James interacted with Airmen in several different ways, one of which was her first speed mentoring session, where she had two-way conversations with small groups of Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jenna K. Caldwell)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. --

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James visited here for the first time last week to spend time with Team McConnell Airmen and better understand the missions.

During her visit, James interacted with Airmen by holding a meet and greet with maintenance personnel, having lunch with Airmen, speaking at an all call, and, for the first time, participating in a speed mentoring session organized by the Airman’s Council.

“I thought [speed mentoring] was a great initiative,” said James. “I’m a real believer in mentoring generally; I also mentor a variety of Airmen one-on-one through a program in our Air Force called MyVector. Any form of mentoring is valuable, and this was a particularly efficient way to hear a number of stories and have good two-way conversations.”

Airman 1st Class Tevin Manuel, 22nd Communications Squadron cyber surety technician, attended the speed mentoring session.

“Having the opportunity to sit down with the Secretary of the Air Force is a welcomed experience that you don’t get to have every day,” said Manuel. “I learned that leadership is not always a straight path. I’ve known that for a while, but it hit me while sitting there and talking with her, because we both actually had the same desires growing up, and we both pivoted from that point, going toward different paths and ultimately ending up in a better place.”

In addition to the time she spent with Team McConnell’s Airmen, James took a tour to see the construction the base is undergoing in preparation of the arrival of the KC-46 Pegasus.

“I had the opportunity to tour around and see the various projects that are underway here at the base,” said James. “I think McConnell will be well ready to receive the KC-46 when it arrives. There’s growth opportunities here, and I think there’s a certain excitement associated with that.”

By witnessing first-hand the reality of what McConnell does on a day-to-day basis, James was able to step away with a deeper understanding of how the base contributes to the overall Air Force mission.

“McConnell helps us in two key ways in the United States Air Force,” said James. “First of all, it’s an important part of global reach; McConnell is the largest tanker base in the world. The second way it helps is because McConnell is important for global vigilance; part of the team here is focused on cyber issues, as well as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and the analysis of the intelligence that comes from our systems. McConnell is hitting the ball out of the park over and over again.”

She also understands that without the Airmen, that mission would never be completed.

“I hope, first and foremost, Airmen know how much I appreciate them and the importance of what they are doing,” said James. “I tried to reinforce this in every interaction I had, and it’s not just me; it’s all of us who are working in Washington, we all have a very good appreciation of just how hard our Airmen are working and the types of sacrifices they’re making, particularly those who have frequent deployments and family separations. They’re doing a fantastic job.”