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AFSPC command chief advocates for Space Airmen at AFA forum

OXON HILL, Md. -- The merits and issues affecting the men and women of Air Force Space Command were brought to the forefront during a Command Chief Master Sergeant Forum during the Air Force Association's Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 14 near the nation's capitol.

More than 150 conference attendees were on hand while command chiefs from across the Air Force took time during the conference to answer questions. Hot on the ticket were questions surrounding social media, fitness, Total Force integration and what keeps these senior leaders up at night.

Chief Master Sgt. Todd Small, command chief for Air Force Space Command was on the panel along with command chiefs from Global Strike Command, Air Force Reserve Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Combat Command. The chiefs were given time to reflect on their commands before the questions began. Chief Small began his portion of the forum by telling the merits of the AFSPC Airman.

"The capabilities we provide are needed," said Chief Small. "We work hard to ensure the joint warfighter can see with clarity, communicate with certainty, navigate with accuracy, network with assurance and when called upon by the proper authority, strike with absolute, deadly precision. Space Command Airmen bring that capability."

Questions concerning social media, and the time lost from Airmen surfing social media sites during duty hours were brought up during the forum, with Chief Small taking the lead on those answers.

"Well I would offer that we probably lose less time from Airman surfing Facebook than from the Airman standing outside smoking," the Chief commented. "We as an Air Force have a message to deliver and we have to use every tool at our disposal. Social media, I believe is not a passing fad. If we can get to our Airman and their families from there I believe that we should. "

The new fitness program garnered many questions from the audience for the chiefs.

"Look left and right if you see someone who you think just might not make that tape measure then we have an issue," said Chief Master Sgt. Martin Klukas, command chief for Air Combat Command. "I truly believe that there are some folks out there who really need some help. Most Airman don't wake up every day and ask themselves how can I get fatter today and they also don't ask themselves how can I get kicked out of the Air Force today. We need to seriously educate Airman and their families so that we can get healthier."

Chief Small also had comments on this issue.

"Space command has embraced the new fitness test as you can expect," said Chief Small. "I think the encouraging piece of this is that we have almost doubled the amount of Airmen from the low 20 percent to the high 30 percent who are making an excellent on their test across the Air Force. That's a message that's not coming through. The young staff sergeant PTL who tested me and others did everything he was supposed to. He demonstrated the correct movement, he read from the AFI and when I was down cranking out pushups. He had no problem telling the squadron commander to my left that he needed to go lower and reset the count."

The statuses of Total Force integration and many new initiatives were also brought up at the forum.

"We rely extremely heavily on the Air Force Reserve," said Chief Small. "The 310th Space Wing out at Schriever Air Force Base, is every bit a part of Air Force Space Command as the 50th Space Wing is. The global positioning system circling the globe everyday is run not only by the 2nd Space Operations Squadron but by 219th Space Operations Squadron (AFRC). Across every mission system throughout the command, we are heavily embraced with our Reserve partners."

As the question and answer portion of the forum wrapped up, the last question brought forward was what keeps these chiefs up at night. For many the answer revolved around one thing ... people.

"Having been a chief who has had to attend a memorial service three times in a month, the safety of our Airman is definitely high on my mind," said Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Derrow, command chief for USAFE. "I can tell you it was very disturbing. You would think it was the young Airmen, young riders who were out joy riding but that wasn't it at all. These were experienced riders. We are trying to figure out how we can prevent this. Every life is important; every member is an important part of the team. That's what keeps me up at night. How do we get our Airmen to be safe?"

Chief Small added what keeps him up at night as well.

"It's not satellites in space, it's not missile warning, it's not any of those things because General Kehler and I both know that we have the Airman, officers, civilians, contractors and industry partners who are well trained and well developed to execute those missions daily," said Chief Small. "What keeps me awake is our people and how well we take care of them. We need to focus on our outreach and our communication. The key is getting the information about the tremendous amount of resources available to the people who need those resources."

The forum ended with all the chiefs thanking the Air Force Association for allowing them to participate and inviting all attendees to participate in as much of the conference as they can.