Leaders who recognize hard work continue to inspire others

Following around various Air Force leaders is a typical job assignment for Public Affairs Airmen. Usually we’re there to take a few quick meet and greet photos, and then leave to upload and document the event on social media as quickly as possible.

My assignment was to go for a couple hours, get the required documentation and then post photos before the duty day ended. I found myself staying for the entire day.

Chief Master Sgt. Richard D. King, 1st Air Force Command Chief, is not your typical leader. In my day of following him around and listening to him speak to 115th Fighter Wing Airmen, I learned a ton.

First off, you don’t have to flash around your rank to be an effective leader. I watched King open doors for others and greet everyone with a smile (no matter what their rank was). Not once did he intimidate the Airmen he spoke with, instead he treated them with the utmost respect. He ensured each Airman was aware that they were being heard. King promised he’d channel their comments and concerns to the general. He promised they would be heard by the ‘higher-ups’ in our organization.

Second, interaction with your troops is key to getting to know the problems and solutions that exist in today’s Air Force. King made sure each Airman felt comfortable expressing their concerns. He not only asked them to tell him about their jobs and the problems/struggles they faced on a daily basis, but he also wanted to know what he could do to help them be more effective in their positions. He asked them for solutions to their problems.

King knows the Airmen on the ground are the experts. They know their jobs better than anyone else. The 1st Air Force command chief knows his success is dependent on the success of the Airmen in the organization.

Last, but most importantly, he relayed an important message that we should all take to heart.

King told the story of his recent conversation with a 9-11 fireman. The fireman stated how proud he was to be there that day, to help those who were stranded in the towers. It was a tragic day, and even though the emergency responders are still fighting diseases and health deterioration from the effects of breathing in that smoke, they are still proud to have been able to support those who needed them that day. The fireman wanted King to know he doesn’t have regrets about helping that day – but he also stated that he doesn’t ever want to be in that position again. That’s where we come in. King made it very clear that it’s up to us to make sure nothing that catastrophic ever happens again.

Strong leaders with traits similar to King, are vital to the success of this organization. Strong leaders who know and understand that all career fields, whether they include Airmen working on the jets, wiring communications devices, guarding the gate or writing blogs, are important. We are one. It’s up to us (as a whole) to work together, to find solutions, to make a positive impact on our nation. Thanks to King’s visit, we are on the right track. We are moving forward in a positive direction!

About Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode

Tech. Sgt. Andrea F. Rhode is a photojournalist for the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wisconsin.