Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright discussed resiliency and readiness with an auditorium filled with Tinker Airmen during an All Call held at the Hudiburg Chevrolet Center during his base visit last week.
“The primary reason for me to do base visits is coming out to see what a base is capable of and get the understanding of your mission. What’s also nice is to hear what’s on your mind to help me focus on the things that I should be doing as your chief,” Wright said. “One of the most important things that I can do as a senior enlisted member in the Air Force is listen to your concerns, go back and develop programs or do whatever it takes to make life as smooth as possible for each of you.”
Enlisted members from the 72nd Air Base Wing, 552nd Air Control Wing, Life Cycle Management Center and the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and Air Force Reserve Command listened as Wright discussed an array of topics including readiness, fitness and overall wellness, as well as answering audience questions.
“There are many ways that we capture readiness in the Air Force,” Wright said.
This includes mission capability rates, personnel readiness and commander’s assessments which show that of the total 551,000 enlisted Airmen, only a small number are considered non-deployable. However, Wright explained the Air Force recently shifted how it looks at readiness.
“A couple years ago we really started honing in on what we consider our Pacing Units, the units that will be first out the door to protect and defend whatever U.S. interests are,” Wright said. “It’s great to spread readiness across the United States Air Force, but it’s probably more important to make sure those pacing units that will be first out the door are the ones that have the highest levels of readiness, and we’re at a 90% readiness rate with those units.”
Wright also explained that the organizations he’s visited with are in the process of aligning what they do with the national defense strategy of fighting in the multi-domain, near-peer adversary and violent extremist organizations.
“That asks us to be prepared for full-on conflict with Russia or China and at the same time being able to hold off North Korea or Iran and being able to continue the VEO fight we’ve been in for the last 18 years, all while maintaining a safe, secure and reliable nuclear deterrent here in the United States while protecting the continental United States itself.”
While the importance of the mission itself was emphasized, the health and overall wellness of Airmen remained in the forefront. This includes changes to Physical fitness tests, action to implement bereavement leave and an emphasis on resiliency programs.
“I get a lot of questions about the PT tests and what we’re going to do with them and frankly we are in the process of changing a few things about the fitness test,” Wright said.
Calculations for abdominal circumference measurements will change and senior leaders have been seriously looking at implementing what would be considered a “bad day” policy.
“A ‘bad day’ would say no harm, no foul, no discipline… just take 45 days to get yourself together and come back and take the test,” Wright said. “I’d like to shift the focus from the test to overall fitness, health and wellness.”
Other policy changes include the addition of leave days specifically for bereavement. While Airmen must currently use normal leave for bereavement, Wright says there is an initiative moving forward that will give commanders the ability to grant up to 14 days of bereavement leave.
In regard to overall wellness, Wright also touched on the issue of Airmen suicide rates and leadership’s responsibility in resiliency.
“Too many of our Airmen choose suicide as a means of dealing with tough issues. I’m seeing a lot of great resilience programs across our United States Air Force, but I continue to be concerned about the overall resilience of our Airmen and what we should be doing about it,” Wright said. “Our responsibility at the Pentagon is to make sure that you guys have the resources, dollars and authorities that you need when it comes to resilience programs.”
True Grit and Home Away from Home are a couple of examples of resiliency programs being implemented at Tinker. However, Wright says programs that promote resiliency aren’t enough.
“Leadership and organizational culture play a huge role in resilience…you may not think if you’re a commander or a chief or just a teammate that you have a responsibility, but I think we all do.” Wright said. “What I can guarantee is [that] you will go through it. You will experience loss, you will experience failure, you will have some form of relationship problem or financial issue or disappointment…but that’s the nature of life.”
“I can promise you as long as I’m your chief I’ll continue getting after the things you tell me are important to you. The thing that will stay central to me right now is resiliency so I’m going to keep working on that to come up with solutions that help all our Airmen. Resiliency begins with us.”