Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Friday, November 09, 2012

Strong words from former CMSAF

by Airman 1st Class Nathan Maysonet and Senior Airman Scott Saldukas
47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

11/7/2012 - LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- Thinking is a lost art.

These are the words of the fifth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Robert D. Gaylor during his most recent visit to Laughlin. A self-ascribed provocateur who enjoys forcing people to think, Gaylor does not shy away from hard lessons.

Gaylor, who served in the Air Force for 31 years, two as CMSAF, returned to Laughlin after two years and continued to ask simple but difficult questions.

"I don't have all the answers, I just want people to think," Gaylor said.

An example of one such question he saw asked since his enlistment in 1948 is whether service members can switch off their home life when they put the uniform on.

"In our innocence we used to believe you could separate family life from military life," Gaylor said. "We thought you could flip a switch, and if an Airman had a problem we would say they are screwed up. We then realized you couldn't do that."

He and his fellow Airmen were once told that their families were not needed and should be kept distant, he said. Drill instructors would inform all new recruits that they were their family and were all the recruit needed.

Now Airmen are encouraged to reach out to their families when worried or scared, to find some bedrock to hold onto.

"Someone somewhere took the time to think long and hard and involve the family in their loved one's service," the Bellevue, Iowa, native said. "Things got better after that and we call that a lesson learned."

But hard questions remain that Gaylor fears our modern push button society and in turn Air Force, have yet to think long and hard on, such as resiliency.

"Resiliency is a sensitive issue, you either have it or you don't," Gaylor said. "Suicide is not new to the Air Force and one is one too many, but the problem must be addressed from the start of an enlistment and followed throughout a career."

Resiliency however, has become a catch phrase to the Air Force.

"You can't just look someone in the eye and say you need resiliency, that doesn't work. Now we just send emails or talk about being resilient but you have to invest time and involve yourself with your Airmen to build a foundation of trust," he said.

We wear resiliency out by talking about it, he said, and we need to quit talking about it and just do it.

It all comes back to the art of thinking, and the need to evaluate and reflect, Gaylor said. Airmen must ask themselves what kind of leader they are and do they mean what they say.

"Why do we need to remind ourselves who we are as Airmen with creeds," Gaylor said.

These are all tough questions Gaylor believes must be answered by all Airmen and cannot just be regurgitated from the mouths of others, he said.

"I knew I was an Airman, our creed is great but it used to be a given that we knew these things spoken of in it," Gaylor said. "Did we leave our fellow Airmen behind? Do we need to remind ourselves?"

Necessity, Gaylor said, is the mother of all invention.

"I have and always will evaluate and reflect on everything people have said to me and what I say to others," he said. "And I always ask, do we mean it."

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