DAF senior enlisted advisors discuss Airmen, Guardians in the fight

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  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Department of the Air Force senior enlisted advisors addressed an audience of Airmen and Guardians in a wide-ranging discussion about ‘Airmen and Guardians in the Fight,’ the theme of their panel, on Feb. 14 at the Air and Space Forces Warfare Symposium in Aurora. 

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass and Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force John Bentivegna spoke on a panel moderated by the 14th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald Murray about the importance of properly empowering, training and equipping the enlisted force to prepare for Great Power Competition.  

Starting off the panel, the senior enlisted advisors took time to acknowledge and honor the legacy of Chief Master Sgt of the Air Force No. 5, Robert Gaylor, who recently passed away. “What’s amazing about Chief Master of the Air Force no.5, Bob Gaylor, is his lessons are timeless and they will be forever remembered,” Bass said.

Moving on, Bass addressed the room of Guardians and Airmen by discussing the department’s focus on reoptimizing the force to prepare for the Great Power Competition while also recognizing there are still questions as to how the department will go about doing it. 

“You're going to see more change in the next four to six years than I've seen in my entire almost 31-year career. It is about time. Our Airmen are ready, they’ve been ready, they’ve been postured for it; the big question is ‘ready for what?’” 

Bass said that there are still questions to answer as the department optimizes including how the service will get there admitting, “the how is still being worked out.” But, while the department works out the details, she wants to empower Airmen to start making changes now. 

“Each of our Airman will be crucial to helping us get after the how we will do this – how we will reorient the force,” she said. 

“Don’t wait on us. There are things that all of us can do within our squadrons, within our flights, within our sections. All of us should be thinking about how we can reorient toward the threat … and make things better for us.” 

Along the same line, Bentivegna addressed proposed changes to the Space Force, including evolving training and skillsets to develop Guardians. To better understand the needs of the service, the Space Force recently completed a service-wide review defining the roles and responsibilities of enlisted, officer and civilian Guardians.

“With such a small, mission-focused service … how do we maximize the number of functional areas with the number of officers and enlisted and civilians,” he said, speaking of the core findings in the recent review. “In addition to how we employ them, in that [review], it talks about how the enlisted force is the primary warfighters of the service. They’re the subject matter experts in their weapon system and they are responsible for the training and readiness of the unit of action.”

A key theme of the panel was the urgency of embracing change and seeking new pathways to transform the force at the lowest level.  

"The force of the future is empowered,” Bass said. “The force of the future are critical thinkers. Our future force will value what our components bring to the fight, will figure out ways to integrate by design everything they do.”  

Integrated by design is a central concept for modernizing the total force by designing, building and operating systems that mesh active duty, reserve, and Air Guard components to maximize their total effect and give commanders options when responding to any challenge.  

Both asserted that the path to change starts with reliable funding, urging Congress to approve a budget on time.

“There are things we want to get after, but if you don’t have the money you can execute on your plan for, then we fall behind,” Bentivegna said. “We have to make the investment to train [Guardians] accordingly to be able to succeed.”

Concluding the panel, both leaders praised the contributions of Airmen and Guardians as they helped reshape the force into the force of the future.  

“When it comes to the accomplishments that I'm probably most proud of, I would say it's the accomplishments that our Airmen make every single day,” said Bass, who will be retiring in March. “Like I always tell my team, I wish I had a GoPro on because I want our senior leaders to see the excellence and the greatness and the innovations that I get to see … across the board.” 

Bentivegna shared her sentiment, indicating he sees enthusiastic Guardians every day who are eager to learn the skills needed to keep their competitive edge.

“We’re all getting after it,” Bentivegna said. “This journey that we’re on is going to empower the enlisted corps to really get after what they want to do, which is the mission.”