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19th AF Command Chief Talks Shop

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark -- Editor's note: 19th Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Robert Tappana spoke about the accomplishments of Little Rock Air Force Base Airmen and the challenges facing 19th AF Airmen in an interview April 18 with Tech. Sgt. Arlo Taylor, 314th Airlift Wing Public Affairs. An edited transcript follows:

Q. What are your thoughts on Little Rock Air Force Base and the people making the 314th Airlift Wing mission happen? 

A: I think the base looks great. The most of the facilities are in great shape and the other there is a good plan to either fix or replace the others. The most important thing is that they are being taken care of well. As you drive around the base it looks clean, professional, it's someplace that Americans in general and Airmen in specific can be proud of. That is exceptional and speaks well for the people here.
The 'Rock' is an outstanding team and your results speak for themselves. Look at what we are doing with C-130s in the (U.S. Central Command area of responsibility) and the number of convoys they are taking off the roads. Look at the amount of supplies and equipment they are delivering, and numbers of people they are transporting to medical care. Those aircrews, pilots, loadmasters and flight engineers all train here. The fact we are successful in the AOR today to the tremendous degree we are is a testament to what Little Rock AFB has done in the past and what you are doing now. I think you are laying an outstanding foundation for the future.

Q. What are the biggest challenges facing 19th Air Force Airmen and NCOs today? 

A. I think hands down the biggest challenge we're facing now is figuring out how to transform the way we do our business so we can assist the Air Force as we try to recapitalize the fleet. The Air Force has to invest in new equipment and we have to do it within the budget we have -- we all know that.
What we've got to determine now is how we change what we do to allow that to happen. The best of those answers will come from Airmen and NCOs. The people who are entrusted with the actual work will have the best view on how to do it more efficiently. We're going to have to be very careful to be in tune, to listen to them and then try to do what we can to make their vision a reality. I think hands down that is the biggest challenge we face.

Q. What do you see as the key to success for enlisted people in today's Air Force? 

A. We have to constantly work to improve ourselves. The world is constantly changing and becoming more complex. Technology we use is becoming more complex. We're facing bigger challenges everyday in the AOR and that means we need a force that is focused on self-improvement. Every individual must be striving to become more physically fit. We all need to become more intellectually fit. We need to be focused on our education especially in an Air Force that provides so well for our education. We need to be working on becoming financially fit, making good choices as we commit our precious resources both personally and professionally. We are front line warriors in the Global War on Terrorism and we need to be as good as we can in all aspects of our lives. We have the responsibility to our country and more importantly to our families to be the best Airmen, the best people we can be.

Q. Do you have any suggestions for things front line supervisors can do today which will impact the Air Force of tomorrow? 

A. First, every decision front line supervisors make today impacts the future of the Air Force. In fact front line supervisors today are the Air Force of tomorrow. We have a tendency sometimes to say "I'm only a staff sergeant" or "She's only a tech sergeant." Today's staff sergeant is less than 20 years away from being tomorrow's chief master sergeant. They are only 24 years from maybe being tomorrow's chief master sergeant of the Air Force. The thing we can do to have the most impact is make sure we're as prepared as possible to be supervisors. We do that by setting a good example and by being as educated, trained and prepared as we can, but also by being involved. We can't sit back as spectators and wait for senior leadership to give us the golden answer on how to make this new air force we're building work. We have to be participatory. We have to understand why we're trying to recapitalize the fleet and then we have to be doing everything we can to make that possible. A lot of that for us is going to be looking for things that are either wasteful or that no longer make sense and waving the flag and putting forward proposals to leadership to eliminate or change them. The great answers aren't going to come from on high. They are going to come from somebody with their sleeves rolled up and whose hands are dirty who is doing the actual work. They always have and they always will.

Q. How important is the aircrew training mission of LRAFB and the people who provide it in winning the GWOT? 

A. The majority of the deaths and injuries happening on the ground in the AOR right now are happening to convoy personnel as we try to get the equipment, supplies and people from one area to another where they are needed. The Air Force made an active commitment to take as much of that vehicle traffic off the roads as possible and put in the air...and that takes aircrews. We train aircrews. If the team here at Little Rock didn't do the things they do as well as they do, then there would be more people exposed to more danger on the ground. We cannot succeed without the team here at Little Rock. We're flying C-130s now and we're going to fly them for years to come. In fact, we're still buying new C-130s. As long as we're buying and flying C-130s, there will be a requirement to train people to operate, crew and maintain them. LRAFB is absolutely essential.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add? 

A. This was an impressive trip. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the people I met - both active-duty and our Air National Guard teammates at the 189th Airlift Wing. I was impressed by everything I saw here especially by the teamwork between the two wings.
I was also quite impressed by the quality of questions asked as General Halter opened the floor (at his commander's call). It' obvious the people here are thinking hard about what it means to be Airmen and how they can contribute to the fight. I think as long as we have people like that, the future looks great.
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