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NEWS | Aug. 27, 2014

502nd commander shares wisdom with NCOs

By Senior Airman Krystal Jeffers JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio commander, kicked off the monthly JBSA-Lackland 5/6 meeting with his "words of wisdom" or "maxims" Aug. 20 at the Gateway Club at JBSA-Lackland.

LaBrutta covered topics such as formal training, Community College of the Air Force degrees, professional military education, job performance, establishing goals and action plans, creating a work/life balance, the new enlisted evaluation system and setting the standard rather than settling at the standard.

"We have a new enlisted evaluation system, transformation happening all over the place, a new organization and sequestration," LaBrutta said. "My advice to you is to stop worrying about those things and start focusing. We have a new enlisted evaluation system, and it is about time. Learn about it; find out what it is, and what it means to you and the people you lead because you are leaders. You are the ones who will talk to the Airmen when they have questions and help them understand and not worry. The new system is good for you, for your people and for the U.S. Air Force.

"Performance is your highest priority and that's where the new evaluation system comes in: It is going to be performance-based," the commander continued. "If you are a high performer in your organization, it is going to be recognized and put into your record, and you will progress in the AirForce. Know what your job is, be the technical experts we expect you to be, be subject matter experts and people like me will make sure to set you up for success. Every day, make the commitment to excellence and make every day count."

After the meeting, the Airmen gave glowing reviews and many spoke of the new things they learned.

"He hit home with a lot of the things he said," said Tech. Sgt. Ricky Penuelaz, 59th Medical Wing NCO in charge of Reid Laboratory. "My favorite part was how he made it personable, made it so that you can relate and how he brought the energy."

"He had a lot of good points and lessons in leadership," added Tech. Sgt. Mark Velasquez, 37th Training Group, commander's group executive NCO and 5/6 president.

With the new changes to the enlisted evaluation system, which is based on a one to five rating system, some of the Airmen had questions.

"I came here hoping to learn about the new evaluation system and the general covered it really well," Tech. Sgt. Angela Gibson, 59th Medical Operations Squadron assistant NCO in charge, said. "He said that people need to not worry and focus on their job performance. There were worries that it will make it harder to promote, but he said if you are already doing your job right, are going above and beyond and are setting yourself up for success, then you are going to make it. It is not as bad as it seems; we really do need a new system because not everybody is a five."

One Airman had sent a question to the general before the meeting, which he answered during the forum: What did the commander think of the NCO corps today?

"I think you are the best trained, the best educated and the best war fighters that we ever had. But I have concerns," LaBrutta said. "Do you really value what you are doing? Do you value the U.S. Air Force and each other as much as you should? It is really hard to stay focused in this world of technology. Concentration and attention spans are getting shorter.

"Technology has its place, but I think it is getting in the way because you are not getting out among your people as much as you should. All the problems we have in the Air Force right now - sexual assault and suicide - are people and human issues. We cannot get to the root cause and fix it without face-to-face interaction."

Speaking about the difference between NCOs today and years ago, LaBrutta expressed his belief that letting services like base cleanup and beautification become contracted services instead of enlisted duties took away that sense of ownership and pride in the base that used to exist.

"Airmen, NCOs and officers walk by trash today, but I would have been chewed up and spit out when I was an (enlisted) Airman if I had done that. This facility, the grounds around it, this base, is ours. How can we get together to solve (big) issues when we ignore (little) ones like trash?"

Velasquez, the Airman who sent in the question, said, "He did a really good job of answering the question. He spoke about how this next generation is a lot smarter than the previous one, but we have become a little more complacent, less cognizant to issues in our work areas, and less involved with our Airmen because of technology."

"I wanted to hear what he expects from us so that I may pass it on to my Airmen," Penuelaz said. "He emphasized that we are responsible for being better leaders and training up our Airmen."

"My favorite part was his honesty," Gibson said. "He said it how it is and people need to adjust to the changes or get out. I really loved his honest approach and how he was really energetic and animated. He is a great public speaker, probably the best that I have seen. I am going to take this information now and pass it on to my troops."