MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A Welsh III visited three Air Force Global Strike Command bases to listen to Airmen of all ranks who support the Global Strike mission on a daily basis, while addressing the importance of the nuclear enterprise and its future.
Earlier last the week, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James also visited AFGSC to show Airmen they, and the nuclear mission are still of the utmost importance to Air Force leaders.
Welsh received feedback from Airmen at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Malmstrom AFB, Montana; and Minot AFB, North Dakota; on how Force Improvement Program initiatives have increased productivity, morale and continue to improve the quality of life for AFGSC personnel.
“I think most of the Airmen we talked to in these past couple of days liked that decision making has been pushed down,” Welsh said. “They feel they have a greater say in their unit’s day-to-day decision making and the way the mission is being done. There is really a pretty predominate feeling that they have a voice and somebody is listening to them.”
He added that every group he met with expressed a confidence in their leadership from their enlisted supervisors, flight commanders and squadron commanders to their group and wing commanders. Leadership at every level seems to be something the Airmen are happy with — that was a good indicator for him, Welsh said.
One issue raised about moving forward with FIP is that it’s separate from the chain of command.
“How do we take the goodness of FIP and make it a part of day-to-day actions, thinking and communication within the chain of command?” Welsh asked.
“That’s the secret to success over time, and so that’s what we really want to do with FIP. The other thing we have to remember with FIP is that we made significant changes and adjustments in some areas,” Welsh said. “We can’t assume all those new ways are perfect. We might have not gotten them all exactly right. The chain of command has to make adjustments constantly for it to be useful over time.”
To ensure the program’s progress is moving in the right direction, Air Force leaders visit bases to hear if there are successes and see what needs to be changed to better the mission for Airmen.
“There are two parts to this problem if you’re looking at this from a nuclear mission perspective. There’s FIP, which is more focused on Airmen, the mission, the environment, training, tools, the ability to do the job well and to do it in the minimum time required with the least amount of pain and frustration,” Welsh said. “Then there’s the recapitalization of the nuclear enterprise for the next 50 years. That’s really where the Air Staff and I are focused with Global Strike Command. I’m worried about making sure we get that right. We’ve got to have a consistent focus on this over time, and that’s where we have to work hard, I think, to make sure the nuclear enterprise is healthy for the next generation.”
To recapitalize and regenerate AFGSC for future success and sustainment, the command recently appointed a four-star general to steer them toward a more cohesive and efficient command.
“We need a commander at Global Strike Command who is thinking about being the predominant Air Force spokesman for nuclear policy, deterrence and execution every single day,” Welsh said. “It brings a very powerful, well-informed, very respected voice into the discussions at Washington and the interagency and policy arena as well as the operations arena and overseas. That’s why General Robin Rand has just taken over as Global Strike commander. His job is to bring that voice to this command.
“We’re already bringing more of the bomber units that are non-nuclear back into the command to bring the Global Strike mission into one major command. We’re going to look at how you consolidate different kinds of authority for everything from requirements for acquisition to sustainment to new CONUS (contiguous U.S.) operations developments in the future back into Global Strike Command. This is the center of gravity for the nuclear and bomber business — that’s what the four-star general brings, a different level of influence for a command,” he said.
Welsh emphasized the importance of AFGSC and the nuclear enterprise through new leadership but most importantly, the Airmen who get the job done every day.
“Never forget how important this mission is,” Welsh said to the AFGSC Airmen. “The nuclear enterprise is the wallpaper of national security. Everybody in the United States of America has been leaning back against this rock of nuclear deterrence for 60 years now, and the Airmen here at Minot, Malmstrom, F.E. Warren, Barksdale and Whiteman … they’re the ones who make that real.”
“I’m pleased with Airmen all day, every day. You guys have no idea how cool you are,” Welsh said. “Our people — sometimes incredibly young people who are technically savvy and committed to the job and clever about how they do it — are accomplishing things that are just really uncanny. Combine these superstars with supervisors and commanders who take care of them and families who enable them, you create an incredible force of nature. That’s what we have.”