WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — The 42 newest chief master sergeants within Air Force Materiel Command gathered for a weeklong orientation here last month. The AFMC Chiefs’ Orientation is held every year after the promotion selectee list is published.
“Chiefs’ Orientation is essential to get these new chiefs the tools and information they need to lead at the top of the enlisted ranks,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Warner, AFMC command chief. “We hold this orientation every year because of how critical it is that, as our senior enlisted leaders, these folks are fully prepared for their new role.”
One of the first sessions the new chiefs attended was a Leadership Perspective with Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, AFMC commander.
“This is not like any other promotion you’ve experienced in your career,” she said. “You are the senior leadership of the Air Force now. People will look at you differently. You are now ‘they.’ You’ve heard Airmen ask, and maybe you’ve asked, ‘What were they thinking?’ Now that’s you. You are they.”
Pawlikowski also outlined the four things she expects from her leaders.
“I expect these four Cs from leaders at any level,” she said, “but as chiefs, it is especially important that you set an example. I expect courage, competence, commitment — to the mission and to our Airmen, and compassion.”
The orientation also included a session led by Warner himself, who encouraged the group to keep up the stellar work that led to their promotion to chief master sergeant.
“To get to this point, you have done everything the Air Force has asked of you, and you’ve done it better than your peers,” he said. “You’re experts at your jobs; you’re great leaders and managers. You’re out and involved and engaged. You’re doing something to make yourself better. Don’t stop doing any of that. We are extremely proud of you, but this promotion isn’t a reward for your previous work and an opportunity to coast until retirement. You were promoted because we’re counting on you to be the leaders that keep moving our Air Force forward.”
Warner also said, though, that — as chiefs — they would have to shift their thinking to a strategic level.
To help with the shift to strategic thinking, this year’s orientation included several leadership perspectives, including a session led by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody.
“Most of you operate at the tactical level every day — the most important place in our Air Force, where the job gets done. And your leadership is critical at that level,” Cody said. “But if you’re going to lead as a chief master sergeant, you need to think strategically. You need to bridge everything that is going on tactically with our Airmen to the strategic vision of our United States Air Force.”
To ensure these newest chiefs are ready to meet that expectation, the rest of the orientation included sessions covering different functional areas — everything from a Wing Commanders panel, a Legal Perspective, a session on Customs and Courtesies, and more.
“Some sessions are standard and included every year,” Warner said. “For example, some of the chiefs are new to the command, so we always include a mission brief or strategic overview to familiarize the group with what AFMC does for the Air Force. We also try to get the chief of the Chiefs’ Group here every year, because assignments and personnel issues are handled differently for chiefs.”
Other sessions at the orientation target current trends or issues within AFMC or the Air Force. This year, for example, the group got to participate in a Professional course hosted by the Profession of Arms Center of Excellence.
As a culmination event of their orientation, the command’s newest chiefs gathered for an Enlisted Heritage Banquet at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
“Our enlisted heritage is created by heroes,” Warner said at the banquet. “You are part of that legacy, and you have more to give. You’re going to leave here to continue building that legacy for the Airmen that will follow you.”