ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla.-- Maj. Gen. Craig Wills, 19th Air Force commander, and Chief Master Sergeant Kristina Rogers, 19th AF command chief, visited the Airmen of Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, March 29 to 31.
The leaders’ visit included several opportunities to better immerse themselves in the 97th Air Mobility Wing’s rapid global mobility mission. They also met with several enlisted Airmen, officers and civic leaders for sit-down discussions. Wills and Rogers concluded their visit with a commander’s call focusing on why diversity and inclusion are an important foundation to the Air Force and how Airmen can build a stronger force when cultivating a culture of dignity and respect.
“This humble base is the heartbeat of producing world-class mobility Airmen who will go out and serve our country,” Wills said. “They will lead our Air Force and our country to the future, and that starts right here with the Air Education Training Command.”
The highest level of 97th AMW leaders associate the vision of the wing with executing the “world’s premier training,” which requires the performance of “elite Airmen.” In order to cultivate these kinds of Airmen, Wills said, a foundation of trust and decency is necessary.
“You're not entitled to very much when you wake up in the morning and put on your uniform,” he said. “There are very few things that you're actually, truly entitled. Right at the top of the list is that you're entitled to work in an environment where you're treated with dignity and respect. This means, whether you're black or white, male or female, gay or straight, the baseline is dignity and respect. If we do that right, we'll have a better country and a better Air Force.”
Rogers agreed, encouraging Airmen to have crucial conversations with people from different backgrounds other than their own while taking the time to understand who they are.
“As we look at how we develop and train Airmen, what's most important is the environment and the culture that we set. It's imperative on all of us to make sure that every Airman understands where they fit into the mission and that they understand how important they are. We need everybody on the team, whether officer, enlisted, civilian or contractor, to know they matter.”
Speaking on learning and innovation, Wills noted that the Air Force has trained pilots and aircrew the same way for years, and that although it works well, innovation is required to bring the change needed to keep up with U.S. adversaries.
“Our system is awesome because we can take somebody off the street who's never even ridden on an airplane before, and in a few months, we’ll make that awesome loadmaster or boom operator,” he said. “But the problem we have is, the system that brought us this far is not going to take us where we need to go.”
Near the end of their time with “Mobility’s Hometown,” Wills and Rogers shared their thoughts on wellness and mental health . Rogers shared her philosophy on how to better connect with one another.
“We've talked a lot about having difficult conversations...we need to have the crucial conversation,” she said. “It's how we show up for people. It's how we react to what they share with us. Are we actively listening? Are we open to their perspective? Do we understand their story? It's the people piece that matters. It's my belief the only way we're going to get after this is if we come together and truly, truly take care of people and understand what they're going through.”