Watch, Read: Leadership and Our Enlisted Force Preparing for War

Fourteenth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray hosts Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass and Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman in a discussion of “Leadership and Our Enlisted Force Preparing for War” at the AFA Warfare Symposium on March 4, 2022. Watch the video or read the transcript below. This transcript is made possible through the sponsorship of JobsOhio.

Speaker: Airmen, Guardians, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 14th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and the chairman of the board of the Air Force Association, Gerald R. Murray.

Fourteenth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray: Good morning. Good morning. Well, good morning, all. It’s great to see you again this morning. I hope all of you I would say are well rested. I know some of you are not. I got to see you a little late last night. But at least I hope you’re ready for an intense half day ahead today and that you enjoyed your time and found yesterday’s sessions very meaningful. Yesterday morning in my opening comments, I mentioned the AFA team. I would like to take this time on behalf of our board of directors, many are here, to be able to thank our AFA team that organized and executed this, including our staff members, volunteers, led by our executive vice president, Doug Raaberg, Major General retired Doug Raaberg, but an incredible team. So as you have the opportunity today and you look and see someone with the AFA, you know badge on, or these young cadets of ROTC, excuse me, or are CAP, say thank you to them because they have worked extremely hard in being able to bring this. Chief Bass asked me yesterday, she says, “You know, when you see a duck going across the water, it just looks so graceful and glides across, but we know that, you know, there’s a lot of work underneath and how are the legs?” I can tell you the legs are good, they’re solid, but they’re tired as well, so, so give ’em a thanks there for me. Thank you. 

Well, we’re starting today with a topic that’s closest to my heart. Our enlisted leadership, our senior enlisted leadership in both our Air and Space Forces. Our panelists are the ones who are the eyes and ears of the service, especially when it comes to our enlisted corps, those who invest their time in listening to the concerns of our servicemen and women, and understanding what motivates them and what their needs are. And these particular enlisted leaders bring a lot of experience and perspective to the table. It is my great pleasure to be able to introduce and bring to you the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass and the Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force, Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force, Roger “Toby” Towberman. Well, chiefs, again, such a great pleasure to have you. It’s been my great honor to be able to follow your leadership, the things and initiatives that you’re doing. I can just tell you, so proud of both of you. It’s just absolutely incredible for me to have the opportunity to spend a little time here with this audience, with you. So chiefs, you know, we know that the theme of our panel here and focusing on this conference being a warfighter conference, our theme is leadership and our enlisted force preparing for war, or for combat, which is all of what we do. Yesterday morning, Secretary of the Air Force Kendall detailed his imperatives for our Air and Space Forces. Most of those affect parts and different parts of the service. But the seventh imperative that he noted is squarely in your lane, the readiness of the Department of the Air Force to transition to wartime posture against a peer competitor. Particularly speaking, then, I’d like to ask both of you, how are you addressing that with our enlisted leaders in our enlisted force today?

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass: All right, well, you want me to start? Yeah. All right. So first of all, good morning, let me pull up my notes. By the way, you know, Number 14 told us this is a gathering of the minds. So I wrote some notes last night on a bar napkin. Anyway, no, you know, first of all, I just want to say good morning and the big thanks to AFA for doing this and big thanks to our industry partners, as well as our community partners who are here with us. When it comes to operational imperatives, especially the readiness piece, what I might offer on the Air Force side is, we’ve never taken our eye off of readiness when it comes to our airmen. We are, though, very focused on what readiness needs to look like in the future as we move toward a high-end fight. And to that end, we’ve got a force-gen model that we’ve pushed out, which is more predictable for our airmen. When it comes to deployments, we heard a whole lot about the Agile Combat Employment and multi-capable airman mindset last yesterday. That’s how we’re continuing to get after, you know, ensuring that our airmen are prepared and ready for the wartime posture. But in addition to that, our focus on readiness is really, if we take care of our airmen and their families are going to be ready. And so to that end, we’re taking a holistic look at readiness, in particular, to the things that matter, again, to our Airmen, I will also put a foot stomp to Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Raymond on their efforts with “Five and Thrive” book, that’s a guide that they pushed out that every supervisor should have. But it’s really a guide to spouses and families on how they can be their very best to be able to support their Airman, and Guardian. So again, we’re taking a holistic look at readiness.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman: Great, well, you know, we’re doing the same thing, like the weapon system that matters most is the one that lives and breathes. And so for the vast majority of the Space Force, Chief, we’re employed in place so that readiness has to be constant, it needs to be all the time, they’ve got to understand how they connect to each other, how they connect to our to our partners. And so there’s this, I think, this increased level of understanding that’s expected, certainly, now that maybe wasn’t expected in the past. And so it’s really a kind of all the time on a fight, not even fight tonight, it’s fighting continuously kind of mentality. And also to understand the environment in a different way, in a way that we really know what’s happening and why things are happening and not just what’s out there.

Murray: Right, Super. Well, Chief Bass, yesterday, and not only yesterday, but throughout, there’s been a great emphasis on Agile Combat Employment, ACE, you know, and so everyone, they know that acronym, because ACE has been put out there exercising, you know, focus on that. So how are you, you know, institutionalizing the concept of agility and flexibility from a shared, you know, the responsibility embodied in ACE?

Bass: Yeah, so what I would offer, you know, we spoke a lot about Agile Combat Employment yesterday, and then, you know, you speak about kind of the understanding that we have to have, how we’re going to institutionalize. That is really about mindset and understanding what the future high-end fight looks like, and how we have to be agile enough to get after it. And it really just can’t just be mindset, it has to be our default, it has to be our DNA to be that multi-capable airman that is needed of us.

Murray: Super. Chief Towberman, also yesterday, General Raymond, you know, spoke on your focus, and specifically the work that you’re doing on the new human capital plan. You know, we all grew up under, you know, the enlisted force structure AFI 3920 630-9 … 3629-03. I’ll get it, you know, dates back. I’m dated a little bit that been a little bit wild. But you know, with that, what is really going to be different from, in Guardian development from the Airman development. And can you speak to the Guardian ideal?

Towberman: Yeah, I’d love to and, you know, the CSO gave me a shot yesterday, sir, I appreciate it. But, you know, the really, maybe the best thing about the ideal is that it really is a grassroots effort. And while I might have been there, you know, encouraging folks and taking notes, this is really what all of our Guardians are asking for, it’s how they see the world, it’s how they see themselves fitting in the world. And, and it’s really easy to kind of write that down when you’re just listening and paying attention. And so, so here we are, and how does that look different? And, how are we building that that [inaudible] that I talked about in September? You know, there’s a few things that to me, stick out. One, we’re not looking at paths, development is not a path thing. You don’t just check boxes and magically become a butterfly. It’s far more organic than that. And so we’re trying to ensure that the investment in 100% of the force can happen 100% of the time, this is not about if you do this, then you can do this and you can do this. It’s about wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, we think you’re important. We think you need to grow and develop. And we want to honor your commitment to that by investing in you. If we can allow every human being to be the best version of themselves possible, then all of that other stuff, promotions, etc., that all kind of happens as a natural kind of product of that. So there’s a lot of things in the ideal that we’re proud of. But for me, it’s this concept of, hey, everybody is going to get an investment. Everybody has the opportunity to make a difference. Everybody is connected in this ecosystem, we’ll care for and nurture and find the best version of everyone, you know, inside of them. I think that you know, everything else kind of layers on top of that, but that if I was just gonna try to say it in 30 seconds that turned into three minutes, that would be it.

Murray: No, that’s a great approach. Really appreciate that. And Chief Bass, I know that you’ve also been in the Air Force working on a new action plan for enlisted force development. How about can you share how your blueprint is, I’ve read about, ties into developing today and tomorrow’s combat-ready airmen?

Bass: Well, first of all, you know, I appreciate the secretary constantly focusing on One Team, One Fight. And you know, when you all released the ideal last AFA, I was excited about it, I was like, we can all see ourselves in that. And I think there was a ton that we can learn from the joint force together. But specific to the Air Force, you know, we just pushed out in late December, the enlisted force development action plan. And I hope that all of our NCOs have that on their desk. But I’ll just give you a little bit of background. When we first got in the seat, our team for the past year and a half has been very focused on if we’re gonna grow the force that we’ve made for 2030 and beyond. How are we deliberately doing that? And what are we doing? And so to that end, we’ve had a whole lot of people with big brains focused on how are we going to develop the force meaningfully. And to that end, we you know, the team was working really hard, we had a product, and we gave the outbrief to General Brown. And what I loved about this in the fall is it was actually called our enlisted force development strategy. And as we released that, and shared it with them, he said, Hey, Chief, I love everything about this. But we are not going to call it a strategy. Because the strategy doesn’t mean anything unless we’re going to put action to it. And immediately, we change it from enlisted force development strategy of 2030 to the enlisted force development action plan. And it has 28 objectives, which really puts us on task on, mostly as an air staff, on how we’re going to get after developing the force that we need in the future. But what I love about it is, there are actionable things that all of us can really get after. And the first objective is making sure that every airman understands the threat at large. And if they understand that threat, and if they understand the greater purpose of why they wear our nation’s cloth, then they’ll have that sense of purpose as they move forward.

Murray: All right. You mentioned joint as well, and of course, we know that we were hoping that the SEAC wouldn’t be able to join us today. But I also understand that you have worked together, you know, with him and the Joint Staff and being able to update and bring a new focus on joint PME. Can you either one of you, or both of you speak to that for a minute?

Towberman: Yeah, so I mean, we’ve known SEAC for a while, right? So he’s no stranger to this room and everything that he did. When he was in ACC, everything that he did, certainly in AFRICOM, to bring kind of a very deliberate plan of attack to developing people is what he’s doing with the Joint Staff. So what we’re seeing what we have seen for several years, with Keystone for our nominative chief positions, now we’re seeing all the way down to the NCO level. So real formal, competitively selected opportunities for NCOs to get sort of, not sort of, to get joint training. Really well done. He’s got a great team. And if there’s one thing I know about Ray Colon-Lopez is, he can make a list and he can check things off. So you know, we’re really fortunate to have him and he’s working through it. And I think we just picked the class so they’re getting ready to start that NCO class and looking forward to it. And it’s really, he also is, you know, I would say, around the table, really leading us well, and we appreciate you CZ. But other things, compensation, he was a big driver in the mask conversation, the COVID, what’s the impact and all these kinds of things and so he’s just been a real steadfast advocate and a great team leader, I think, for all of us.

Bass; Yes. So I go back with CZ, way back in the day when I was a young Senior Airman and he was a very young E-5 in a joint environment in a joint unit. And I will say, you know, I’m actually really proud of where we’re going from a joint PME perspective with that NCO course that started, but also proud of our Air Force, because we are actually kind of, you know, as a Department of the Air Force pushing the Joint Staff to help, get after enlisted PME. And I think that’s a good thing. And they’re listening.

Murray: All right. Well, you shared with me last night, Chief, that you just came back from Lithuania, you had great discussions there with our allied partners, and how meaningful and how important that is, would you care to share maybe some of what we talked last night? And of course, we’ve got allied partners that are with us here, and probably tuned in as well.

Bass: I will, you know, we just got back two days ago, myself and the team from a NATO air CSEL conference out in Lithuania, we weren’t sure if it was still going to go on because of the timing. But what, you know, ended up happening was the timing was exactly what it needed to be. So I was with 14 of my counterparts from 14 allied nations really being there, and an opportunity show our commitment to each other, and the strength that we have in our security cooperation, we also had a pretty amazing opportunity for myself to have a bilat with our Ukrainian Air CSEL. And so I had about a seven to 10 minute discussion on the phone with him to be able to just share some thoughts on what is going on, boots on the ground for for them and be able to give him you know, hopefully some encouragement, but really, you know, what I shared with him is that not only are they you know, inspiring us as an Air Force, but they’re inspiring the world and we look forward to seeing them soon. And until then keep kicking ass.

Murray: Right, Chief Towberman. We spoke just a few minutes ago about agility among our Airmen and in the Air Force. But what does it mean to be an agile Space Force warfighter today? How is it different from say, two to three years ago?

Towberman: Well, I think three years ago, I mean, certainly, it wasn’t long ago, we wouldn’t even say warfighter, right. I mean, that’s the big difference. That as you know, everything has changed. And so I think we’re, we’re leaning into that, we’ve got great human beings. I think agility for us in a warfighter kind of way, means that we have to sort of really navigate this, we’ve got to specialize. We need incredible, specialized expertise to be successful. But we cannot give in to stovepipes. And kind of restricted thinking, this is now I’m this and this is all I am. So how do we build a culture where I allow for the force to specialize as they need to, but also have the sort of permeability between space power disciplines, or between even specialties larger than that? How do I say, Oh, you’ve been a cyber guy for this long, but now we’re going to make an operator. Or, you’ve been an operator, now we’re gonna make you a targeteer. So we really have to have this mindset that says, I’m specializing in this, but it doesn’t define me, this isn’t who I am. And I can do all of these other things in the in the reality of our, the size of our force says that everything that we do impacts everything else, that that ecosystem is small and it’s delicate, so we cannot get too fixed on any one piece. We’ve got to always be paying attention to the whole thing. So I think agility is certainly, as it is everywhere, it’s a mindset. But I sometimes I think it wasn’t long ago where I would maybe get kind of misunderstood on that. I’m not saying we can’t, we shouldn’t specialize. We’ve got to specialize. Like, this stuff takes a long time to learn and to do well. So we’ve got to do that. We just can’t then get stuck. Right. So maybe that’s, there you go, Chief.  I feel like Andrew Ridgeley at Glastonbury. Like I’m the act on the last day of the big music festival. It’s 9 a.m. and everybody’s muddy and they’re like wow, what? What’s happening? Just kind of quiet in here. Google Andrew Ridgeley in Glastonbury later, guys. Let’s shift the discussion about resources a little bit. Again, kind of you know, looking then listening to your bosses yesterday, and certainly the things that we in the association have been, you know, focused on Capitol Hill, you know, continuing resolutions. I think General Raymond mentioned that you total all that together, and across the time, three years of CRs, $2 billion to the effect with just the space for so much less and, you know, $15 billion, I think, you know, since October that, you know, it takes away from, you know, our taxpayers, the ability for the service to execute. So, to that point, you know, but we do know, resources regardless continue to be hard to come by, and it seems everything is a priority. And yet we know, it can’t be. How can Airmen and Guardians best posture themselves for success in a resource-constrained environment? And perhaps, what can we the Air Force Association do for you?

Bass: I think one way to depress us on a Friday morning is to start talking about the budget, to be honest, but you know, what I might offer is right, like, we have to go into this assuming that we’re not going to get more resources or manpower. And so to that end, you know, what are we going to do? And that gets back after what a lot of your leaders here on the stage yesterday talked about, which is empowering our airmen at the lowest level, trusting them, getting out of their way, supporting those innovative ideas that they have. And let’s get after it. I would also say that it’s an opportunity for us to be able to leverage the partnerships that we have, and leveraging some of those partnerships or leveraging the partnerships with our community leaders who actually want to be able to help us get after things that we can’t get out for ourselves. And also leveraging our partnerships with the industry partners that are in here today. Like we need you to, you know, want to be a good American and a good citizen and help us to be able to move the ball, knowing that we have this resource-constrained environment would be extremely helpful. And how can AFA help? I would say, you know, you all do that all the time. And you continuing to be a champion to our Airmen, Guardians and families, you continuing to champion Airman programs, to the folks who matter and the folks who will listen to us and help us ultimately with that budget. Specifically on the Hill with our industry partners, you continuing to champion the warfighter is really what matters, I say it all the time. It’s not an F-35, or a new ISR platform, or B-21. It’s going to be our people who see us through, and so that matters.

Chief Master Sergeant of the Space Force Roger Towberman  22:34

So yeah, you know, we’ve all been taught the little quad chart, right, urgent and important. And when you’re standing up the first service in 70 years, that doesn’t work, like everything’s urgent, and everything’s important. And we are running so fast and working so hard. And so, you know, to me, our, in particular, our core values of connection and courage come to mind when dealing with this constrained resources. Because the environment is not such that, that any echelon above you necessarily is going to realize that they’ve given you more work to do, then you can do, and you’ve got to be connected, you’ve got to have the courage to raise your hand, OK, “Hey, I need some help here, because I can’t do all of this, it can’t all be a priority. And I need your help.” I think sometimes this you know, don’t bring me problems, you know, bring me solutions or, you know, solve everything at the lowest level, there’s really well intentioned cliches that we all know that I think do a lot of damage if we understand them incorrectly. There is no shame in saying, “Hey, I actually don’t know how you expect me to get this done with the resources I have. Can you help me out?” We’ve got to have the courage to have those conversations that at every single level. And then we have to just continue to empower the incredibly talented, incredibly capable human beings in our charge. If you’re running things through a choke point. If you’re using, you know, this tyrannical structure where everything has to come up here, and it needs to go through seven levels of discussion before it gets to the one person that can decide, like, of course, you don’t have the resources to get something done. Right. So really, I think, it’s a combination of all those things, right? That you’ve got to be willing to have the hard conversations and you really just have to trust people you have to do the things that only you can do and then let everybody else just run, just go. Pretty fond these days of just having a big capital G O exclamation point. Well, the team will tell you at the end of a very long email where I tell them how to do it, but then I do say go, right, and I think you really just have to get out of the way and let them go. But really make sure you’re listening. Because it’s hard when you don’t got enough people you don’t have enough resources.

CMSAF Gerald R. Murray  25:09

I think that’s an important comment. I, 5,000 I think today grown to 8,500. But to think about what the mission is, the comments and even I was kind of stunned, you know, yesterday listening to General Raymond, General Saltzman and others, you know, just the number of satellites that are being launched that are there for your control, the desire of, you know, all the combatant commanders to have space embedded in those and across the services. I mean, it does amaze me. I, you know, and it’s no different than the, you know, the size of the smallest Air Force that we have, you know, almost in history today as well, and yet the demand across the services and so …

Towberman: And, you know, as to the second part of your question, that’s something that AFA can continue to do for us as well, just keep telling that story. Right. It is, it’s less than 7,000 uniformed personnel today, about another 7,000 civilians, which we always, right, they’re Guardians as well. Everywhere you go, right. If you used Waze today, or listen to Sirius XM, or check the weather, you’re welcome, right? You’re welcome. We got it, we got to make sure that every American understands how space is baked into their very existence. And how modernity depends on that domain being safe. And that unfettered access to and freedom of maneuver is critical to our modern way of life in every single way. So the more people telling that story, especially outside of the echo chambers in which we normally exist, it’s all goodness. So appreciate you just telling story.

Murray: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s what we’re here for. All right, I know something that we’ve also discussed, and a lot of people have as well. For both of you, dealing with social media. Now in times of social media, trolls, fake news, cyber attacks, how does leadership have a chance to have to change or adapt to what we see? And what do we deal with in media today?

Bass: Oh, social media. You know, so, so General Brown spoke yesterday and said he didn’t even have an email account, right? Like, I didn’t have an email account when I first came in. And you know, what’s interesting is, I didn’t even know what a troll was until I got in this position. I know. Now, my PA told me he’s like, Chief, swarms of trolls. I’m like, swarms? You know, but anyway. OK, what are we talking about? You know, here’s what I’ve learned when it comes to the information era that we’re in, in the information domain that we’re in. It, you know, information, warfare is a thing. And we all have to understand that as leaders, and we have to educate ourselves, we have to educate the force. What I’ve learned in the in the past several years also, is typically, online behavior reflects your offline character. Just think about that for a minute. So to that end, we have to understand this information domain we’re in, we have to hold ourselves accountable. Our Airmen are pretty good at understanding right and left boundaries and understanding respect when it comes to in uniform, out of uniform; on duty, off duty. We haven’t necessarily codified it online and offline. Actually, we did, you know, myself, and General Brown pushed out a memo to the force on the expected behavior when it comes to online. And so just understanding the information environment for ourselves, I think it is extremely important to understand the information environment and how it’s being used strategically, is also very important. You know, and we’ve seen that play out through many things, including current events, and so I would offer, we’ve all got to do our part in educating ourselves and educating our families in it.

Towberman: It’s changed so much. I mean, I remember as a new command chief, Air Force command chief in 2013, being told, stay off, like just don’t go there. And I can’t even imagine that today. I can’t imagine ignoring this incredibly powerful tool, but also, this reality. We grew up being taught to, to go to the DFAC, to go to the dormitories because that’s where young people live, right? That’s where they lived, and you need to go there and you need to see it. Need to be with them. Well, they live in social media now. And we’ve got to go there. We’ve got to see it, we’ve got to, we’ve got to be there with them. I think that, you know, to be successful, you need to, like anywhere else, you need to do more listening, you know, more receiving than sending. You need to be genuine to who you are. And all of us should just kind of live by the motto, to question everything. Like everything you should question, like, do the research yourself. Information is no longer powerful unless you allow it to be powerful. What’s powerful is our ability to think, our ability to connect information, our ability to use information. So if you’re letting a bot trick you into thinking something’s happening, I’d probably rather have the bot on my team than you. Am I allowed to say that? I’m sorry. You’re probably not quick enough to pick up on it anyway. So I’m good.

Bass: But if I can say, I still think as leaders, it’s important that you go out to the DFAC. And it’s important that you get to the dorms, it’s important that we still have that eyeball to eyeball leadership, like, right, virtual, and the social media era, and this information space can’t ever replace face to face leadership. So we have to do those things. We just have to now also navigate the online piece.

Murray: I’ll say an amen to that. And I’m so thankful to have both of you as friends on Facebook. I’m also so thankful, you know, I’m also thankful that I didn’t have to deal with Facebook in my time. It’s just incredible. I mean, I read comments that are made regarding, you know, things maybe that you say or how people pick up on things. And if Sherry was, you know, here this morning with me, she would you know, echo, oftentimes, and to your point, because my question, she’ll tell me, she’ll pick up something, because she spends more time with it. She’s the one that posts. I don’t post things there. But then she’ll tell me something and my constant, what’s the source? You know, and really getting to the facts. So thank you all for that.

Bass: If I can add one more thing, I think as leaders, right, we have to have thick skin, right? And you can’t just go with the waves like, I learned sitting in this position, You know, don’t read all the comments. By the way, you know, so I have a PA—by the way, the chief master in the Air Force is not online on social media all time—I have a PA who manages that. And typically, he does a whole lot of it for me. It is me talking though. And if you ever see a strong clap back, it’s typically me then and then I tell Jared, he’s got to clean it up. So that’s me.

Towberman: I love the comments. I love the memes.

Bass: I love the memes, too. The memes are funny. There’s a couple of funny meme people out there. As long as you’re not mean about it, right? Like I think the it memes are hilarious. I actually sent, I sent some of the memes to General Brown, by the way. And I’m like, sir, we’ve become a meme. So, yeah.

Towberman: So I haven’t told that the CSO yet. But, you know, they’ve been bouncing around the “Semper Soon” meme. I mean, because they’re very, they’re impatient, folks are impatient. But yesterday, sir, with your announcements this week, there’s a new meme, “Semper Satisfied,” which I’m super excited about. Yeah. It’s bouncing around Reddit last night. Winning, you’re winning this week.

Bass: Digress, we digress.

Murray: All right. Well, yesterday, General Jumper asked your bosses a couple of questions. And I’d appreciate your perspective in what you can tell us as well, and it’s about the younger generation that makes up the bulk of today’s Air and Space Forces. How are today’s Airmen and Guardians and their concerns and priorities different or alike from their predecessors?

Bass: You know, you spoke a little bit about it, right? Our Airmen and Guardians are more talented, smarter, innovative, ready to get after it. They have information at their fingertips. In this information age we’re in, many have an attention span of eight seconds. And many just want to have beards. Like you know, so that’s … (applause) I don’t know. But what I will say is right, like we have to appreciate that, you know, we have four generations that are serving in today’s workforce, whether you’re in the military or not for generations, and to understand the differences of those generations is powerful. It’s a powerful tool as leaders and we have to understand that we have to respect it and appreciate it. And the things that might have, you know, my dad served in the military for 24, 26, 27 years, and for you know, the things that led him to continue serving, it’s very different than what’s going to lead my 21 year old. And so we have to value and appreciate that. And we have a whole lot of things we’ve got to get after on the people side of things on the people, programs and processes and the policies to be able to get after what Dr. Schmidt talked about, which is to be able to retain the talent that we need in 2030, we’ve got to understand the differences in generation.

Towberman: Yeah, I, you know, I think there’s a couple really fascinating things that when I look at young people, that if you don’t look closely, and maybe you don’t see. And one is how service oriented they are. They’re very willing to help and to contribute. And so how do we, you know, tap into that. They’re also, they’re so connected. And we really have to make sure that we’re capitalizing on that. Because there’s great power in that. And then the last week, I said, they just, they outnumber us, by the way. I mean, you guys know that right? And you boomers aren’t eating well, you’re, you’re not exercising well, you’re dying out there, they really are outnumbering us. And they have to be dealt with, they won’t be ignored. They’re in charge. The Millennials are in charge. And they want to know why they won’t do things because you told them to. They want to understand. We know we talked about information, where all the information in all the history of the world is in the palm of their hands. They’re not interested in you quoting a rule to them, they want to understand, they want to know why. And so they have to be led through that lens, through our lenses. Let me give you all the information all the reason, all the why. I tell our chiefs all the time, I’m like, I do not want chiefs in the business of sharing information, because they can get the information. Chiefs have to be in the business of sharing the why, the reason. And all leaders have to do is that we’ve got to share the deeper, nuanced meanings of what we’re asking them to do. Because they because they need it. They can Google the rule.

Murray: They can and they work with speeds of clicks. And you’re right and how information comes at them and they gain it. So maybe Chief Bass to you, how do you then help many of the airmen that are working on older antiquated equipment doesn’t have the latest technology, I think even in the Space Force that you’ve got that, that they’re so adapted to in, you know, with their iPhone and things, you know, from, that are outside the military, how do you help them adapt to that and understand that. Some of it’s resources, but it goes back to again, making sure that that our younger generation, you know, understands that and can help us get there faster.

Towberman: I think you, you know, first you just you’re open and honest. You can’t pretend something’s high tech, that’s clearly not, right. And so you I think you have to kind of own that and have an honest discussion. And explain that why, right, and then involve them in the solution. We’ve got 50, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but in a population of 7,000. We’ve got 51 what we’re calling super coders now, coders, we’ve got two data analysts that we’ve brought through the program, we’ve got 27 others in training at the moment. So you know, very quickly 70 out of 7,000 is no small percentage. They have some pretty high end, digital capabilities. And so we’re really, I think that’s the answer is to not pretend that something’s awesome, that isn’t, and then involve them in the fix.

Bass: I think if I can add one more thing, right. Like, it’s always interesting, because our Airmen always say, like, I wonder if our leaders know, you know, I wonder if our leaders understand the challenges we have? And I’m like, Yes, we do. And we share those challenges, right? Like, we’re frustrated with the IT systems that we have. I mean, beyond belief, like, as many times as you have to add in your PIN, I have to do that too. Like it’s, I mean, I send stuff home to my phone or my whatever so that I can actually watch you know, whatever I need to watch because can’t do it on my own. So we share in those frustrations. But, you know, the privilege that we have is our opportunity to be able to sit in the room with our senior leaders who are having those very tough budget discussions. to watch it play out, and to know that our senior leaders are fighting for those discussions and where I’m encouraged is, you know, we’ve made a stance on here, here is the foundational things that we have got to make sure that we are funding, and cyber and IT is one of those things, Airmen programs is one of those things, we have to start to fund the foundation of what makes our Air Force move out. Because we can’t modernize if the foundation is not where it needs to be.

Murray: Well chiefs, we’ve got just a few minutes left. I you know, a lot of Airmen and Guardians out here and I, also listening to you, we’re told that there’s about 5,000 registered for the conference, both here and out, out in the audience, but maybe a little bit of insight to you know, each of you. Because as you spoke, you have to have your view on so much, so wide across the force and involved in and all. How do you, and perhaps can you speak to your priorities? What’s in that inbox? What’s on the scope? What is then you know, as you look longer range? And how do you organize and compartmentalize and work that?

Towberman: You’re far more organized than me, you should start.

Bass: You know, what’s interesting to me is my team tries to always keep me in check. Right? So yeah, y’all need to give it up to Team 19. Because they, because I come back from, yes, give it up to Team 19. They remind me that everything can’t be a priority, right? Like because I’m pretty fiery. And I come back and I’m in the Pentagon. And I’m like, we need to get after this. And we got to get after the end. And I have a whole lot of priorities. But I also have to be realistic, like what are we going to be able to get after. I will tell you that I don’t think there’s a thing that matters to our airmen or their families that we’re not looking at, like nothing. What matters to our Airmen and families matters to us. And so we’re taking a deep hard look at promotions, evaluations, how we do assignments, how we actually manage the talent. Again, I keep talking about Dr. Schmidt, because I very much appreciated you know, his perspective on talent, because I’m focused on how do we retain the talent that we need in 2030? Well, it’s not going to be because of policies and processes from 1990s. In the early 2000s, we’ve got to change and get after all of those things. So lots of focus items there for this year, particularly, we’ll make some changes on the enlisted evaluation system. I am hopeful that we are actually going to digitalize WAPs testing, like it is 2022. If we can’t get out of taking a number two pencil into promotion tests, something is wrong. We have got to modernize some things. And then oh, by the way, there’s some assignment — You know, when it comes to assignment policies, we’ve had an assignment work group focused on that we haven’t taken a holistic look at how we manage assignments since the ’90s. Today’s military family looks very different. And so we have a whole lot of things that we can actually do for free. By changing some of our policies. We’re gonna, we’ll roll some of those things out this year as well. It’s a lot of stuff. I don’t know if we’ll get to it.

Towberman: I know we’re out of time. So you know, I’ll say last week, General Thompson and I talking to some cadets that were coming into the Space Force, and one of them asked me, you know, what, where I thought we’d be in 30 years, and, and I said, you know, wherever that is, the only thing I really want, I think like a parent wants a good life for their children. But what I really want is just that we’ve created something that they’re proud to be a part of. And so, you know, my priority every day, is to remember that there’s 7,000 folks in uniform, another 7,000,who aren’t, and then the their professional progeny for 15 generations that I’m just trying to make sure that we don’t make a mistake, that we build a service that they’re proud of. Because if we can do that, and if we can deliver an experience that they want to be a part of, they’ll win the war. That’s the easy part. Ops is easy. People are hard.

Murray: Look, I want to thank you both. Chief Bass, thank you for noting, you know, “Five and Thrive.” And because, and I want to thank to both Rachel and Ron, for you know what they’ve done and being able to join Mollie and Sharene in being able to take and focus on our families because we know that that is even a greater force multiplier in our readiness and our ability to be combat-ready and what our families provide. And I will tell you that it’s exciting to be able to see you know, the focus that’s given today. And we in AFA look, to be able to take and help in every way we can in that aspect as well. But ladies and gentlemen, please thank again our two great chiefs. We are so well served.