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My 30 minutes with the AMC command chief

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leah Young
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
It was a cold and snowy Friday afternoon. McChord Field, which somewhat resembled an abandoned ghost town, was covered with more than nine inches of snow.

Amid the unfavorable weather conditions, Air Mobility Command's command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Richard Kaiser, was still able to visit the installation and speak with a few Airmen. One of those Airmen happened to be me.

Talking with a person who has witnessed the Air Force change and improve over the course of nearly 30 years has given me a whole new perspective. I've gained a different sense of pride and meaning in what we as a military branch do. Chief Kaiser's words not only encouraged and motivated me as an Airman, but a person as well.

Chief, tell us a little about yourself.

I'm from Columbus, Ohio, and I'm a huge Ohio State Buckeyes fan. I married my high school sweetheart, Debbie, and we have four wonderful children and three grandsons. I came into the Air Force open general and found out I was selected for a career in public health. After four years, I cross trained into communications and worked in that career field for 17 years.

What are your initial thoughts about Joint Base Lewis-McChord?

It's an amazing place, even with the snow! This transition has worked because of the relationships between the people who make it work. This is a very unique environment, and it's different from what we're used to, but it's working well here because of remarkable people.

What have you learned since you've taken over as AMC command chief?

I've been fortunate enough to witness the level of excellence and selfless dedication among the amazing young Airmen every single day. Recently, we have identified the "why" of AMC... Why do we exist? We answer the call of other so they may prevail. That could mean anything from refueling to saving lives with our aeromedical evacuation or providing hope with our airlift mission. The quiet professionalism throughout our command continues to impress me.

One of the things Comprehensive Airmen Fitness focuses on is resiliency. In what ways can Airmen become more resilient?

Each individual Airmen needs to realize they're part of the Air Force family. One of the pillars of Comprehensive Airman Fitness is the social aspect, and I think it's important for Airmen to build strong relationships. Airmen who are willing to stretch outside of their comfort zone, try new things and succeed, often become more resilient in the long run. We want every individual Airman to succeed, and we're going to provide the tools and resources to ensure they succeed.

How do you think we can better prepare our non-commissioned officers for expanded leadership roles?

I think our front line supervisors are the most important role in the Air Force. Not only are they executing the mission, but they're also leading and growing the next generation of Airmen. That is a huge responsibility. I think our NCOs can be more confrontational, not in a negative way at all, but in a challenging way. Enhance your Airmen. Give them feedback in a helpful, respectful way. We take our Airmen to the next level with strong and effective leadership.

The Air Force announced new high-year tenure rules which will begin in 2013. What are some suggestions you would make to young NCOs to ensure their careers are progressing in a positive direction?

In one word: Study! Make the most of every single day.

How important has family been in your career?

I would not be a command chief if it weren't for Debbie being such a great command chief's wife. Also, the sacrifices that our children had to make were incalculable. My career really has been a joint venture. You have to be all in it together. I would not be talking to you today were it not for the love and support of my family.

Now that the war in Iraq has ended, in your opinion, what were some of Air Mobility Command's greatest contributions to the effort?

We've played many traditional roles, such as airlift, airdrop and aero medical evacuation. We've also played many non-traditional roles. We've asked our Airmen to step outside of their career fields, such as Airmen who are embedded in joint special operations units. Now that we're out of Iraq, there's a democracy there. That's the bottom line. Also, our Airmen have become better leaders because of their experience in Iraq.

Are there any final thoughts you'd like to share with the men and women of McChord Field?

I'd like our leaders to set the bar high for their Airmen. Provide the tools for them to succeed and then stand back and watch them excel. Give them coaching and encouragement when they need it. You are obligated to help that Airmen become the best they can possibly be.

I'd like for our individual Airmen to stretch beyond their comfort zones and try something new. Accept a new leadership opportunity or sign up for a new class. Find out what you're really capable of. The military makes up less than one percent of this country's population. Each one of our Airmen plays a huge part in the overall mission. Continue to grow and let nothing stand in your way.