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NEWS | Dec. 15, 2006

Chief Master Sgt of the Air Force visits Randolph

By Bob Hieronymus Wingspread

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley spoke to a packed theater audience here Dec. 7 about his vision for enlisted Airmen and the Air Force.

Chief McKinley, selected to be the 15th Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force in June, visited Airmen while in Texas last week.

During the enlisted call, he identified three major priorities that affect every member of the Air Force: winning the global war on terror, developing and caring for Air Force families and the recapitalization and modernization of the force.

He emphasized the global nature of the war we are fighting and how the events on Sept. 11 changed the world we had known up to that day. He stressed that winning the war is the first priority.

He went on to speak on the importance of developing and caring for our families, and how it is a quality of life issue for everyone in the Air Force.

"This means we must have a safe environment to do our jobs and develop a life style conducive to keeping Airmen fit to fight," the Chief said. "This means we maintain benefits, but perks may have to be set aside."

He explained perks by way of an example.

"Having the fitness center is a benefit that helps maintain our ability to fight, but having towels given to us is a perk. Randolph was spending $80,000 a year on towels in the fitness center," he said. "It is a good example of a perk that can be given up so other missions can be done."

The Chief went on to talk about the expanded basic training program. The program will increase basic training from six and a half weeks to eight and a half, so the new Airmen will receive more of the kind of warrior skills they need to "operate outside the wire."
His final point, the need to recapitalize the force, is illustrated by current age of the aircraft fleet - an average of 25 years.

"There has been an 80 percent increase in aircraft maintenance costs in the past ten years as the fleet aged," he said. "Our maintenance people have helped us to the best safety record in years, for FY 2006, but the fleet needs to be modernized."

He cited the case of the F-15 which has a lifetime record of 101 kills to zero losses, but when launched against the F-22 in a test dogfight, lost each engagement.

"This is where technology is taking us," he said. "Air superiority is the key to our war fighting capability. Our first priority for aircraft replacement, at this time, is a new tanker so we can maintain our air superiority."

He closed his briefing by focusing on the idea that the enlisted people should be called Airmen.

"They are not kids or troops, they are Airmen," he said. "They can take pride in what they are and what they do. I believe there is no better time to wear the uniform. I hope n later years every Airman can look back and proudly say, 'I gave my best'."