Leading enlisted force to success main goal of command chief

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dillon White
  • 341st Space Wing Public Affairs Office
The Air Force Space Command command chief loves the Air Force and shaping successful Airmen.

In 1983, a young man entered an Air Force recruiting office in South Carolina looking for something different.

The 20-year-old mill worker understood personal responsibility and was earning a living, but wanted an opportunity to do something unique.

"I signed on the dotted line, pushed out [of town] and never looked back," said Chief Master Sgt. Todd Small, AFSPC command chief. "Second to my wife and children, joining the Air Force was the best decision I've ever made."

The Air Force offers young men and women more responsibility and opportunity, as well as more satisfying and rewarding challenges, than any place else in our country, Chief Small said.

"You can make a living anywhere," Chief Small said. "There are very few places where you can make the kind of difference you can make in the Air Force."

Responsibility for the leadership, mentorship and development of the Air Force's most important resource, which is its people, is placed in the hands of its young leaders, he said.

"The impact you can have on the people and the Air Force mission has everything to do with the security of our country," Chief Small said. "It is a fantastic opportunity to do something and be a part of something that is more important than our own individualistic goals and objectives, and bigger than yourself."

Mr. Small became Airman Small 25 years ago and throughout his career has seen a lot of changes in the Air Force. The operational tempo of the Air Force the most striking difference between then and now, he said.

"It took me 11 years of service to get my first deployment," he said. "Today we have airmen basic who are deploying to the area of responsibility after basic training, technical school and a month or two at home station. The Air Force has a mission and we put our Airmen out there to do that mission. Deployment, area of responsibility and aerospace expeditionary force are words that were not in my lexicon as a young Airman, but Airmen today understand both intellectually and emotionally what those terms and concepts mean."

Change is constant and it is inherent upon us to leverage the technology we have at our disposal, he said.

"There is a reason we do not fight with mule-drawn caissons anymore," Chief Small said. "Change is important, and we are in a resource-constrained environment. Our commanders need support and we need to be innovative with how we provide that support from the squadron level up to the highest levels in the Air Force."

Making change as painless and intuitive as possible for Airmen is important, he said.

"Today's Airmen come from a click-and-drag mentality where they are more accustomed to the keyboard, computer and network environment, and were simply part of their developmental experience growing up. Folks from my generation were not," Chief recalled.

Because of their technological savvy, the Chief believes Airmen should take more control over their finances and personnel actions with tools provided by MyPay and the Air Force Portal, while still maintaining their NCO in charge as a key to success in their decision-making process.

Not only do Airmen have their personal information at their fingertips, but they have a greater opportunity to know what is going on across the expanse of the Air Force than at any other time in the service's 60-year history, he said.

"When I was a young airman first class, the chief of staff would make a decision and it was hand written, then printed out and placed in an envelope and distributed to Air Force bases by U.S. mail. The letter would eventually make it into an orderly room and an Airman would post it on a bulletin board," Chief Small recalled.

Today, the chief of staff can make a decision or offer insight and guidance, and within a matter of hours it is available to Airmen, Chief Small said.

Along with the changes in information dissemination, Air Force Space Command has turned warfighters into what Chief Small calls "space-enabled warfighters" utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles like the Predator, and troop-locating and communication technologies like Blue Force Tracker.

"Without the capabilities of AFSPC, the warfighters with their boots on the ground in the AOR would be deaf, dumb, blind and mute," Chief Small said. "The intelligence, communication, surveillance and reconnaissance abilities we have today feed right through the capabilities of Space Command."

Chief Small credited the Airmen at Malmstrom as being the backbone of the nation's strategic defense.

"It's the mission, and men and women of this organization who, over the past 40 years, have served and ensured that America is still safe and secure," Chief Small said. "It's key for us to ensure our Airmen understand what they bring to the fight every single day. You don't have to be at the fight to be in the fight and Airmen at Space Command deliver capabilities everyday that influence and affect the battle space our warfighters are in."

The roles of Airmen in the AOR are different today as well, with in-lieu-of taskings with the Army, Chief Small said.

One of the chief's most rewarding memories is from late December 2007 when he received positive feedback from Army counterparts about Airmen.

"I remember watching the commander of U.S. Central Command pin on 13 Bronze Stars for Airmen who were working in ILO taskings. Although they were doing missions not inherently Air Force missions, they absolutely excelled to the point the task force commander advocated for many of those junior Airmen and NCOs to be awarded Bronze Stars. That reflects the caliber of our Airmen in our Air Force and reflects the work ethic and warrior ethos we have as Airmen."

Chief Small described his vision as being his commander's vision. He said he will continue to address the priorities of the commander and ensure the enlisted force is doing everything to meet the commander's intent.

"NCOs are men and women of action. We get things done. We take our commander's vision and make it a reality; that is the history and heritage of the NCO Corps," he said.

Part of ensuring the enlisted force executes the commander's intent is helping Airmen take advantage of developmental opportunities in the joint environment, Chief Small said.

"I think there is something special and useful in understanding our sister services because we go to war as a joint team. You can't wait until you get to the fight to be a joint warrior. We now have joint professional military education for senior NCOs and are introducing more opportunities for joint professional military education."

Each branch of the military has a unique set of core competencies which are designed to be interlocking, Chief Small said. The Air Force dominates in air, space and cyberspace in the same way the Navy dominates at sea and the Army dominates on the ground.

"When you put those teams and interlocking pieces together, you have the world's most dominant military," he said.

Chief Small said the number-one thing he would like Airmen at Malmstrom to know about him is that he respects, admires and appreciates the mission set here. He also intends to be the advocate of those charged with leadership responsibilities and work closely with leadership to achieve the mission.

"I want to be a role model our young Airmen can look at and say 'He is a capable, credible and faithful leader and someone I would like to follow in the foot steps of,'" he said.

Chief Small explained why this was his goal and it was directly related to what success means to him.

"The hallmark of success we have in the Air Force is not how many great things we have hanging on our 'I love me' wall. The hallmark of success for my career will be the competence and character of the Airmen who I've been charged to lead and influence. I will derive my personal satisfaction from knowing that our Air Force and our Air Force enlisted corps is making it happen."