The theme of readiness wove throughout the Air Force Materiel Command Virtual Town Hall Feb. 3.
Resiliency, fitness, the AFMC We Need, Space Force and other issues were among the topics of focus during the hour-long event.
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., AFMC commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Stan Cadell, AFMC senior enlisted advisor, fielded dozens of questions from across the command during the event, which was livestreamed on the AFMC Facebook page.
“We are a command more than 85,000 strong, spread all around the world in a number of time zones and execute our critical wartime mission every day,” said Bunch. “Using venues such as this allows us to reach a large number of our Airmen at one time, ensuring they remain current on issues that are affecting our command and the work they do each and every day for our Air Force.”
During opening remarks, Bunch and Cadell touched on the updated AFMC mission and vision statements, AFMC strategic planning and the importance of command missions and people to the execution of the National Defense Strategy.
“We’re the most diverse, complex command that is out there,” said Bunch. “Everything from uniforms to nuclear modernization and everything in between … the Air Force counts on us for all those systems. If we’re not successful, the Air Force cannot be successful.”
The discussion quickly took on a theme of readiness with the initial discussion focused on fitness policy and leadership development for the officer, enlisted and civilian force. The importance of a “fitness culture” was emphasized by Cadell, with Bunch adding the need to develop next-generation leaders and supervisors through better education and training.
“We have unbelievable Airmen across the board … but what we’re really trying to do is change so that we can retain … educate and develop so that we’re developing the workforce we need for the Air Force,” said Bunch.
Segueing into the status of military privatized housing issues and the efforts that the services are making to ensure Airmen have safe, secure living conditions, Bunch touched briefly on the in-progress resident “Bill of Rights,” the importance of rapid dispute resolution and the involvement of wing commanders at the base-level to ensure housing issues are addressed so Airmen can remain focused on their missions.
“We recruit Airmen, but we retain families. We’ve got to get this right,” said Bunch.
A discussion on resiliency, mental health and the new AFMC Connect initiative carried on the readiness theme, with both leaders emphasizing the importance of an inclusive, connected AFMC culture in building a stronger command and community. Physical, mental and spiritual health are key to a resilient culture, said Cadell, and help is available for those in need.
“The bottom line with the resiliency piece – it comes with having individuals who are willing and open to seek help. The resources are out there, (and) there’s help available for anyone who is struggling. We need to make sure that we’re plugging them into the resources that are available,” said Cadell.
“I love all 85,000-plus Airmen that work in the command,” added Bunch. “No matter how much I love you, there’s no way I’m going to know that something is happening in a young Airman’s life at Edwards who working on the flight line … or a contracting officer at Tinker or a depot worker at Robins. To handle this, we have to do it at the local level. It’s got to be the small groups. You’ve got to connect.”
The conversation then shifted to the status of the AFMC We Need initiative and the ongoing efforts to address the issues identified during the feedback gathered in late 2019. While larger issues such as facilities and IT infrastructure will take longer to adequately address, said Bunch, a number of smaller initiatives are making significant positive impacts across the command.
These initiatives include new efforts to increase communication and dialog between commanders and teams as well as program offices and operational units; improved supervisor training; identification of facility solutions to mitigate space limitations; and finding ways to decrease hiring timelines by leveraging expedited and direct hiring authorities.
In addition, the recently launched AFMC Ideascale campaign aims to gather innovative ideas and solutions to mission needs from across the command with the potential for implementation at an enterprise level.
“We know there’s innovation going on within this command,” said Cadell. “We’ve got great individuals who are doing innovative things each and every day … figuring out ways to do jobs smarter, faster, safer, easier. Ideascale is an opportunity to bring those ideas in and maybe spread it across the force to make a bigger impact.”
“None of us is as smart as all of us,” added Bunch.
The town hall continued with discussions on the civilian fitness program, enlisted promotion changes, civilian development and leadership accountability. Bunch also took time to address potential impacts of the Space Force on AFMC and provided a status update on the Air Force Science and Technology 2030 study implementation.
“There is a lot going on, and I encourage you to read all the news,” said Bunch, in reference to the Space Force. “I don’t see a ton of change immediately with what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis. We are still going to provide the installation mission support. We will continue to do research in science and technology to support the Space Force.”
“Space is a war-fighting domain, and the work we do for them each and every day is our wartime mission,” he continued. “We got to make sure we do it so that we remain dominant in that environment that we count on so heavily.”
Regarding the Science and Technology 2030 strategy, Bunch emphasized the importance of partnerships and collaboration in ensuring the Air Force develops the technology it needs to fly, fight and win today and in the future.
“We are in a competition. We need to make sure that we open up an environment where we can take ideas from academia, industry, others, as well as internal to the research laboratory, and be able to take those and do the right research and move it forward,” said Bunch. “We’re managing programs differently than we have in the past … we’re off and running, we’re on a plan.”
To close the event, Bunch and Cadell each offered perspective on how they maintain balance in their lives amid a high-paced, dynamic work environment.
“I think that family’s important … extremely important. Our families give so much for this to allow us to serve. So, we owe them to make sure that we are spending valuable time with them,” said Cadell. “It’s something that (I am) constantly working on, constantly looking at, and kind of evaluating each and every day, to take a look at where I am.”
In his response, Bunch spoke of the importance of finding equilibrium while managing a high tempo, stressful position and how important family is to ensuring one maintains a balanced focus in life.
“I had an individual explain to me, he was a mentor, and I’ve used his quote ever since then. He said, ‘anybody that tells you that they’ve got work, family, spiritual, and fitness, and health all perfectly balanced, those people are liars.’ The reality of it is, it’s never all perfectly balanced, and you constantly have to make decisions on where you’re going to put your emphasis and what you need,” said Bunch. “I do not want you to run out of family before you run out of Air Force. Families are critical. Go home and tell your spouse thank you. They are the best value the American taxpayer gets.”
The full length virtual town hall is available on the AFMC Facebook page and on the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service site. A full transcript of the town hall is also available at the DVIDs site.
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