Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, Air Education and Training Command command chief, speaks with firefighters from Laughlin’s 47th Civil Engineer Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, May 16, 2013. While visiting Laughlin, Tapia inspected several base facilities and met with numerous Airmen from around base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class John D. Partlow)
Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, Air Education and Training Command command chief, participates in an interview at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, May 16, 2013. Tapia met with several Airmen and spoke at two different Enlisted All Calls while visiting Laughlin. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class John D. Partlow)
Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, Air Education and Training Command command chief speaks with first-term Airmen at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, May 16, 2013. Tapia has visited several bases in AETC after assuming his position in January of 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class John D. Partlow)
by Senior Airman Nathan Maysonet
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
5/17/2013 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, Air Education and Training Command command chief, toured Laughlin and visited with Airmen here May 15 and 16.
Laughlin's Public Affairs office had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Tapia about his visit and about some of the issues on Airmen's minds.
How has your visit to Laughlin been?
"It's been fantastic. I've been in the military 28 years, and I consider myself a very well-traveled person, but I had never been to Laughlin. What I found was a base with a great mission, great Airmen and great leaders. The Airmen here are well trained and focused on the mission, and Laughlin is a great place to train pilots.
"I've seen a lot and have been made aware of a lot of things while touring the base. The attention given to your Airmen and their training, the level of engagement from the noncommissioned officers at every level, and the scope and activity of your flight line are all truly impressive."
What is the number one priority that AETC must address and why?
"Our number one priority is training and producing Airmen. Our mission is production, and we need to look at how we do that and capitalize on our efficiencies to deliver what the Air Force and our airmen need at the right time and place."
What do you want to accomplish as the AETC command chief?
"With the economy the way it is, we are facing some serious challenges and for AETC it all goes back to production. My challenge is to continue AETC's legacy of being recognized as the best in training and educating Airmen.
"I want to influence, as an Airman, our mission, and take our vision and what we do to the next level by incorporating many new ideas and transformation items into our work. There are more than 70 transformation ideas we are trying to incorporate into our practices that we may not see the effects of for years. Some are tiny changes while others are large. An example is the debate of whether we need a recruiter in every city or in a large hub."
Sexual assaults are up 35 percent in the military. What do you feel has caused this upswing?
"We can't shy away from an issue like this, as uncomfortable as it is we have to talk about it. The increase in Air Force and Department of Defense reports can be looked at as being a good sign that our efforts to address the issue are making people more willing to report the crime giving us a chance to confront the problem. Or, it can be a bad sign that the problem is growing, and we haven't hit the issue hard enough."
What do you see the Air Force doing to prevent sexual assaults in the future?
"Number one is the need to continue to look at the issue and concentrate our time and efforts to address the problem in the areas it is most prevalent, which for us is our technical training environment and our duty sections."
How will sequestration affect professional military education opportunities for Airmen?
"With the exception of Airmen Leadership School, things will change because every time someone leaves base to go to training it costs money and we need to be more efficient. The real question of the day is, 'how much can you do without leaving base by using distance learning and other methods?'
"The current PME environment isn't working as it is now and we are falling further behind. We can do a lot through distance learning.
"Another possibility is reducing training times by looking at what new Airmen get trained on now in comparison to what they actually use and need after leaving the school house. We would then train Airmen later on skills that they may need in the future as they progress in their fields."
Where does the enlisted force fit into a Cost Conscious Culture?
"This kind of change comes from you. You know what the problems are as masters of your field and C3 helps us find and address these issues. You have the best ideas and as the enlisted force this is our opportunity to strike and empower change."
What challenges do you foresee in AETC's future?
"Money, like everyone else, and we have to figure out how to remain effective with less."
The Air Force Fitness Assessment is being reviewed by our senior leaders. What changes, if any, do you see coming down the road?
"No changes as far as I can see. From the data and research I've looked at I'd be surprised if changes are made. We are looking things over though, such as abdominal measuring and whether PT should be incorporated in enlisted performance reports, but personally I think we have it right."
If you could tell the enlisted corps one thing to do that you feel would make the Air force better what would that be?
"Take care of each other. The wingman concept comes from the concept of 'I am my brother's keeper' and if we treat this program with reverence, treat it as more than a word we throw around we can help prevent a lot of self-defeating behavior like suicide, child abuse and drunk driving.
"I worked for a lady many years ago who taught me to take care of our Airmen because if you do, the mission takes care of itself."
At the end of the interview Tapia offered his thanks to Team XL, and spoke about how impressed he was with the Airmen here.
"I am very proud of all the Airmen here," said Tapia. "I'm really impressed with all the Airmen working here at the second busiest airfield in the Air Force. It's a privilege getting to meet and see all the young Airmen working in the tower and in the Radar Approach and Control, and everywhere else on base to make your mission possible. I'm so proud to represent you, thank you for what you do."