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Senior Air Force enlisted leaders address Airmen's concerns

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy gives opening remarks during the Chief's Forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy gives opening remarks during the Chief's Forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Chief Master Sgt. David Spector listens as Chief Master Sgt. W. Allen Usry, NORAD command chief, addresses conference attendees at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. Chief Spector is the 20th Air Force command chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Chief Master Sgt. David Spector listens as Chief Master Sgt. W. Allen Usry, NORAD command chief, addresses conference attendees at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. Chief Spector is the 20th Air Force command chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy gives opening remarks during the Chief's Forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Roy gives opening remarks during the Chief's Forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Barron addresses conference attendees during the Chief's Forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. Chief Barron is the Air Mobility Command command chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Barron addresses conference attendees during the Chief's Forum at the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15, 2009, in Washington, D.C. During the event the command chief panel discussed "Year of the Air Force Family," retention and quality of life for Airmen and their families. Chief Barron is the Air Mobility Command command chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Stan Parker)

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- Five command chiefs and the chief master sergeant of the Air Force led a forum to answer Airmen's questions on a myriad of issues affecting the service during the 2009 Air Force Association Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition Sept. 15 at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.

Spearheaded by Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy, the command chief master sergeants were interested in hearing from an audience of hundreds of enlisted and officer members to provide their perspective on concerns raised during the forum.

On the forum panel were Chief Master Sgt. Joe Barron, the command chief for Air Mobility Command; Chief Master Sgt. Dale Badgett, the command chief for Air Force Reserve Command; Chief Master Sgt. Pam Derrow, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe command chief; Chief Master Sgt. Mike Gilbert, the command chief for Air Force Special Operations Command; and Chief Master Sgt. W. Allen Ursy, the command chief for the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

When asked what the chiefs' No. 1 priority is, all the chiefs agreed that taking care of Airmen was at the top.

With this as the Year of the Air Force Family, Chief Roy stressed the year is about all Airmen; active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen, the civilian work force and the families who support them.

Chief Barron echoed Chief Roy's remarks and added, "With the Year of the Air Force Family, we need to capitalize on the great programs we have in place and ensure that our families and communities are aware of the programs and what we do for our Air Force family."

Chief Ursy said, "We need to get out there and talk to our people and let them know we are there for them. We spend so much time on our Blackberry or our computers that sometimes we forget how important front-line leaderships is."

When an officer stated he was selected to be a squadron commander, he wanted to know what advice the chiefs had to help him in his new position.

"Listen to your senior NCOs," Chief Badgett said. "We have a lot of experience and can really help you."

Chief Ursy suggested officers need to be seen.

"Every day, be visible. Get out of the chair. Ask questions of photos on Airmen's desks and talk to the people," he said.

Forum members asked the chiefs what their most critical focus area was and how they will ensure Airmen can do the job asked of them.

"It's all about training," Chief Derrow said. "How can you possibly do your job and be successful without training? We change the way we do things every day, and we need to embrace those changes. We need to make sure we keep up with changes so our Airmen are developed and trained, and then continually assess them so they are ready to go out the door."

The chiefs were asked what the difference is in today's Airmen compared to when they first came in, and what did they see as being in store for tomorrow's enlisted force.

"Back then our idea of going to war was putting a pilot in the cockpit, loading some weapons on the plane, saluting him and welcoming him back after he dropped his bombs," Chief Barron said. "Those days are gone. Today's Airmen are some of the finest Americans I've ever known. They are dedicated, energized, committed and they are serving in a time of war knowing they will be asked to go to war. The first thing they say is, 'When do I get to go?' It makes me proud to serve next to these great Americans. The Airmen I meet get better and better and continue to amaze me."

When asked if there would be changes in joint expeditionary taskings, Chief Gilbert said he was pleased the Air Force chief of staff changed the phrase of "in lieu of" after eight years of war.

"It is something we just do," Chief Gilbert said. "We need to make sure we do these taskings well, and Air Education and Training Command (officials are) doing a superb job to make sure our Airmen are prepared and ready. Our record speaks for itself. Our Airmen are kicking butt, considering they were not assessed to do those specific tasks.

"Look at our transporters," he said. "One day we tapped them on the shoulder and told them they were going off for two months of training and then (they) are going to go drive on the most dangerous roads in the world. The Air Force responded correctly and gave these Airmen the training they needed to do the job, and to do it right."

But first and foremost is that the Air Force has to help win this war, Chief Gilbert added.

"There are some decisions to be made to determine what victory in Afghanistan looks like and how the Air Force can help this occur," he said. "And we must make sure we take care of our Airmen. I'm proud of our young Airmen and know that with good leadership we will make sure the future of the Air Force is bright."