Enlisted leaders emphasize putting Airmen, families first

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — As the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force are putting readiness first, senior enlisted leaders are also echoing that message to their Airmen.

Chief Master Sgt. Frank Batten, command chief of Air Combat Command, emphasized that he aims to support Airmen by removing barriers that cause friction for them.

“The whole goal is to remove those barriers and make them successful,” Batten said. “Along with all the members on our staff, we come to work every day with one focus in mind and that is to take care of Airmen and their families.”

The ACC command chief accomplishes this by ensuring Airmen know that he cares about them. From experience, he can relate to the challenges Airmen are facing today. Squadron revitalization can help provide Airmen with tools they need to manage those issues.

“Squadron revitalization is (also) about giving control back to commanders and allowing them to lead their people appropriately,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kristian Safford, 1st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent. “It is demoralizing to a squadron commander to see someone leave their squadron when they had no say either for or against it; and the Airmen see it as well.”

Safford explained that in the beginning, commanders could only sit and watch as their Airmen who had not completed their course 15 within the allotted time, were ushered out of the Air Force.

“Thanks to the changes back in March, commanders can now decide whether to retain or separate their Airmen,” Safford said.

Part of putting Airmen first involves understanding the root cause of the stress Airmen have.

“There’s no easy solution to this,” Batten said. “Resourcing is an issue. Manning is an issue. The workload hasn’t gone away. The aircraft are aging.”

Batten explained that the ACC command staff is working tirelessly to develop solutions to the concerns Airmen have.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Batten said. “So in the meantime, everybody has to focus on (the task at hand) and prioritize.”

Batten also highlighted two other ACC focus areas, “develop leaders and then bring the future faster.”

Supervisors at all levels can develop leaders and build squadron identity, Batten said.

“Maybe you build it (within your sections or flights) but the key is to having identity is defining the relevance in your mission,” Batten said. “It’s to know that when you come to work every day, you’re part of something bigger than yourself.”