SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras –
It was 25 degrees at Joint Base Andrews, Md. when Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy boarded a plane and headed to Honduras where when he joined Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines at sunny Soto Cano Air Base Jan. 30 and 31.
The visit was packed with tours and meet-and-greets, but the chief's focus was an Airmen's Call, where he spoke about key issues in the Air Force today and answered questions.
One concern was regarding the current battle rhythm and the use of Airmen in joint assignments.
"The current battle rhythm is one that we continue to review on a quarterly basis but right now we predict it will stay the same," Chief Roy said. "Our Airmen ... are absolutely utilized in an appropriate way. Airmen think in multidimensional ways which makes them ready for the joint and coalition fight. Airmen get prepared for the missions they're about to take on, and while some of these roles are a little different than ones they've done in the past... (but) I don't believe we have Airmen doing anything they shouldn't."
Chief Roy spoke about the pride the Air Force has in its members' training, not only in their military training but educational training as well. He said the military training that is provided to Airmen is dynamic, but Airmen need to seek out other opportunities such as online college courses. Other benefits which help our Airmen and their families include Tuition Assistance and Post 9/11 GI Bill.
"We pride ourselves in taking care of both our Airmen and their families educationally," Chief Roy said.
And that definition of family may be changing in the near future as talk about the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal echoes throughout the military.
Chief Roy explained, "DADT is still the law today and the policies are still the same."
The bill repealing the law has been signed, but the President, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff have to certify the implementation plan before the repeal takes effect. Then 60 days later it will become law.
Training will be provided to all servicemembers, and Chief Roy stressed how important the training is.
"This is a new domain we will be stepping into. We need to make sure our Airmen understand what all is going to go into this, we're talking about benefits and entitlements and how it's going to play out. We need to approach this in a professional way and we will. Once the law changes the United States Air Force will be ready for it."
About a year ago the big talk around the Air Force was the physical training program changes. Chief Roy explained why he feels the program is successful.
"Feedback across the board is that the culture in the Air Force is changing," he said. "Airmen are working out in the fitness centers and running together building that esprit de corps. The majority of Airmen are doing well, 88 percent pass the test and of those 47 percent are scoring 90 or above. People are taking PT seriously and the feedback as a majority has been positive. The goal is to make sure our Airmen are fit to fight, and I believe the PT program has done that."
PT is a main focus in the Air Force and as such, it's highlighted in Enlisted Performance Reports. One concern brought up was the "inflated rating system," and Chief Roy told explained how he believes it can be fixed.
"When you sit down with your subordinates, take that feedback form and go through it with them. Make sure they understand the expectations, so when it comes time for evaluation there are no surprises. Read exactly what the form says and rate accordingly. The idea of taking surprise out of it is what we need to do. I charge each of our NCOS to do the right thing," he said.
The final bit of advice CMSAF Roy had for Airmen was regarding financial stability.
"Living within your means is the first step to financial stability," he said. "If you don't know how to do that, we have a multitude of venues from which to seek advice. The Airmen and Family Readiness Center can help, supervisors can help, First Sergeants can help, but it's something each of us needs to do. It's important for you as an individual; it's important for your family and for the nation as well."
As the chief prepared to depart the base he said, "I thank everyone here at Soto Cano for what you do and I'd like to thank your family members for the sacrifices they endure as well."