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Behind the interview

  • Published
  • By Airman Robert J. Volio
  • 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
"You're going to interview the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force."

For some Public Affairs professionals, this is just another job. For me, it was a dream and a nightmare on a collision course. My first assignment in the operational Air Force would be to interview the senior most enlisted leader in our Air Force - James A. Cody.

Several thoughts began to race through my mind. I could make a lasting impression in my debut interview or, I could buckle under the pressure and perform atrociously. My uniform needed to be in pristine condition. I needed to be prepared. If I learned anything from my technical training at the Defense Information School, it was that preparation would be pivotal for this assignment. So I did my research, both on my interview questions and on Cody.

The morning of the interview came and I still couldn't shake my pre-interview jitters. I arrived on scene to meet Cody and, upon arrival, that uneasy feeling took over. My clammy hands weren't prepared for the inevitable handshake, but there was no turning back. Cody and I introduced ourselves, with our PA representatives parked idly in the background.

Then, something happened.

I became comfortable and confident, the complete opposite of unglued. Suddenly, I had my wits about me. Words began to flow in a rhythm that sounded both eloquent and professional. How did I turn this switch on?

Cody inspired and motivated me.

This wasn't a Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force who showed up, shook hands, gave good command messages, and called it a day. This was a man who truly cared about his Airmen and his every interaction with them.

The interview didn't immediately begin once he and I sat down. Instead, he spent a great deal of time getting to know me and my journey into the Air Force. He was genuinely interested in my family and our individual backgrounds.

No longer was I the fast-talking Italian from South Philadelphia whose jumbled words sounded like an auctioneer in training. I was cool, calm and collected. I was ready for my first interview.

First, we discussed the connection - or sometimes lack thereof - between our Airmen.

"When people say, 'do you want to connect with me online,' that's really not a connection," said Cody. "It's an establishment of an ability to communicate with somebody. A connection happens like what took place before we started this interview. I got to know a little bit about you and you obviously did a little research about me before you came in here. That starts to form the beginning of a connection."

Cody, who will celebrate 30 years in the military this November, also tackled the issue of sexual assault in the Air Force.

"First and foremost, every Airman that puts this uniform on has to be actively combating this crime from taking place in our Air Force," said Cody. "That means they have to be vigilant in every venue to recognize those indicators we all sense aren't right, and then have the courage to step forward and take appropriate action to prevent a heinous crime from taking place against one of our fellow Airmen."

Lastly, Cody shared a departing message from his wife, retired Chief Master Sergeant Athena Cody, and the rest of his team for the members of Vandenberg.

"Athena and I, and our entire team from the office, really appreciate how well the men and women do their job here at Vandenberg," said Cody. "They make a difference in our Air Force, they're making a difference in our nation and around the world in ways that most people will never be able to fully appreciate. For us to be able to get some time to get some firsthand visibility on that and an opportunity to spend some time with the Airmen and their families to thank them for what they're doing, it's really been a pleasure for us."

Cody handles his responsibilities with utter ease and professionalism. But, when it comes to building relationships with Airmen, he is in a class of his own. After the conclusion of my interview, the words of the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force lingered in my mind.

"It's pretty hard for me to care about you or care for your family if I don't know anything about you, right?" said Cody. "It really just becomes lip service. But, if I spend some time with you to get to know you, what's important to you and know about your family, it's a different relationship. It's a professional relationship, but it's a powerful relationship. And, if I always have those things in my mind as we're trying to do the things we need to do as an Air Force, I'm going to have some pretty powerful information to help motivate and inspire you."

Inspired and motivated I was.