Chief Sullens visits Eglin's ACC units
By Chrissy Cuttita, Team Eglin Public Affairs
/ Published February 09, 2009
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Hundreds of Airmen probably expected a stirring speech from one of their most senior enlisted leaders here Feb. 2 but what they got was a pointed question and answer session addressing many of the Air Forces most pressing issues.
Air Combat Command's Chief Master Sgt. Steve Sullens, the primary enlisted advisor to the ACC commander and major command's 25 wings, 15 bases and more than 200 operating locations around the world, brought a new style to the enlisted call when he addressed the 53rd Wing and 33rd Fighter Wing, the two ACC units on Eglin.
The chief's enlisted call was one of the events on his full week-long agenda that included visiting Team Eglin facilities, Hulburt Field, the Team Eglin Chiefs' Recognition ceremony and culminating with the 53rd Wing's Annual Awards Banquet Feb. 5.
The moment he walked into the enlisted call he began asking Airmen what Air Force topics concerned them most. Chief Sullens stressed the importance of leadership and responsibility in facing these issues.
"The drama around the nuclear incident started when a staff sergeant and an Airman did not do what they were trained to do," he said. " A technical sergeant noted the mis-step, and a second NCO attributed it to an administrative error. Before you know it, mission readiness and Air Force credibility were at risk. That represents the absolute importance of each and every airman, 24/7--particularly the including the responsibility we shoulder, and the expectation of our nation and the world."
Then the topic moved to uniforms. Chief Sullens said he believes the Chief of Staff of the Air Force made his first policy change to wearing the blue service uniform on Monday policy to reinforce the importance of adhering to orders, standards, and commander intent. Disciplined followership is the clear expectation, he said.
Immediately after the first "Blues Monday," the chief remembered seeing something like "black Friday" at the clothing sales. He also witnessed varying leadership levels request exception to the policy--for reasons including "convenience." Nine weeks after the policy was implemented, the chief still saw personnel not meeting the standard.
"We can, and must, do better," said Chief Sullens. "It quickly ceased being about the uniform of the day, rather about following an order...our adherence to clear standards."
At the enlisted call Chief Sullens sought honest openness during question and answer, and in comments made about subjects like the 33rd Fighter Wing drawdown, physical fitness, enlisted performance reports and the Combat Air Force Strategic Plan.
"You can take something from all the subjects he touched on," said Staff Sgt. James Ransome, 16th Electronics Warfare Squadron electronic warfare craftsman.
The chief also put people on the spot to see what they knew about current Air Force news, policies and other issues. At one point, he called up recent Air Force Sergeants Association chapter award winner Senior Airman Joseph Andrews, 68th Electronic Warfare Squadron, and his supervisor. After appropriately recognizing Airman Andrews' exceptional accomplishments, he quizzed the supervisor of record--Staff Sgt. Richard Todd. The goal, to assess the NCO's leadership involvement with his award-winning Airman.
"We don't want intrusive leadership, but we absolutely expect a supervisor to know his/her subordinates," Chief Sullens said. "This includes where they live, work and play...their family situation...and their high risk activities."
"He kept it entertaining and kept everyone's interest," said Staff Sgt. Stephan Perryman, 16th EWS electronic warfare craftsman. "Everyone realized their issues also exist at a higher level."
Chief Sullens not only took the time to connect with Airmen at the call but he also met with all levels of leadership during his week here and made it a priority to participate in unit physical training, something he stressed as very important for every military member.
The Chief summed up his visit with two sentences: "Team Eglin is full of extraordinary Airmen, doing extraordinary things, all around the globe. Their contributions to various mission sets are particularly significant, and it is my humble privilege to serve along side."