Parting thoughts from the 910th's command chief

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Chris Williams
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

A Set-back or Opportunity?

The year numbered 2020 Anno Domini invokes strong emotion with harsh descriptions, and all words are applicable: pandemic, devastation, pain, conflict, loss, hurt, injustice, fear, frustration and more. Upon my activation in mid-March for COVID-19 support, I witnessed first-hand the Youngstown Air Reserve Station stories of success that were later up-channeled to both Air Force Reserve Command and Headquarters Air Force. We challenged you all to think outside of the box, and in everyday 910th Airlift Wing fashion, you all responded with, “What box?” I offer to you the sometimes forgotten chapter of the YARS 2020 story: There was an event just before the February A-UTA that pushed an extremely rare base-closure scenario. It was quite impressive to bear witness to our Crisis Action Team firing on all cylinders within the Emergency Operations Center. All I had to do was sip my coffee and watch the highly-trained professionals—civilian and military alike—manage this situation that now is commonly called The COVID-19 Test Run. This is precisely why we practice. Drills and exercises produce seasoned reactions that rest in muscle memory awaiting to respond. When the rest of Air Force Reserve Command was looking for COVID response answers, Youngstown Air Reserve Station re-opened the Break Glass Binder (in case of emergency) and read from the ink that had just dried. Once again, you all led the charge!

PTS and PTG

We all have felt the negative effects of 2020, and quite frankly may never fully recover. But perhaps recover is the wrong word? What about grow? As American Airmen, we have been educated on Post-Traumatic Stress, but we hear so little about Post-traumatic Growth. To me, PTG is well-connected to resiliency. In trying to maintain crucial life balance, I offer this number sequence: 10-2-5-7. This represents ten hours for your workday, two hours for your physical conditioning period, five hours to unplug from the stresses of the day for decompression and seven hours for sleep. (*Note: Sequence information credit goes to the Command Chief Training Course) I propose we use these guidelines as a standard of measure for life/schedule balance. Much like Col. Janik, over the years I too have developed positive distractions to recharge my spirit. From seeds-to-sauce, I grow the super-hot peppers and make hot sauce. I also carry on the tradition of raising a vegetable garden or making jelly like both of my late grandfathers. My wife Lori and I also fish, kayak and thoroughly enjoy the outdoors with our five grandchildren.

To me, the PTS-PTG-Resilience cycle is always in motion. It’s not what happens but how we respond. Much like our February 2020 base closure experiences have since helped so many others during the initial days of COVID-19, so do all of our life experiences. Truth be told, our shared experiences and seeking to understand each of our Airmen is not only what makes our American Airmen so successful, it’s what makes our entire United States of America a special place to live.

Final thoughts

In last year’s submission, not knowing what was just around the corner for us, I wrote: “On her darkest day, our nation may ask you to commit violence on her behalf, to defend the homeland against an outside aggressor or to deliver humanitarian relief to her neighbors. When that time comes, our Airmen will be prepared … My fellow Airmen, you can do this.” Then, when we rang in the New Year, none of us could have predicted for 2020 the dire circumstance that birthed a desperate need to help Americans right here within the borders of our own homeland. When the short notice plea for help arrived, your military training, combined with your own personal readiness, enabled a lightning-fast response that thundered so greatly upon your arrival, it echoed across the entire world! America. Called. You. HEROES! At home, we smiled and called you Brothers and Sisters in the Profession of Arms. And make no mistake, with all clarity of the moment, even our adversaries sat up and took note of the speed of our response.

Since then, you all have led our Airmen with confidence, conviction, compassion and grace. We walked this 2020 path together, carrying one another’s burdens, growing as human beings, cultivating friendships and developing leaders. Truth be told, adversity brings out the best in our American Airmen, and 2020 gave us the opportunity to demonstrate what we are made of.

Finally, it is sincerely bittersweet for me to announce as of Feb. 17, 2021, I am reassigned as Command Chief Master Sergeant, 445th Airlift Wing, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. That said, I am deeply grateful to have been granted the opportunity and space to stand before you, to look into your eyes, to share the angst of the unknown, to commiserate with my own war stories, and together, celebrate our numerous mission victories and to also grieve our team’s most devastating and personal losses. It is in such moments that I stand awestruck in what you all have achieved as individuals and even more so as a team. The real story here is not what I may have taught some of you, but instead, the immense measure of what you all have taught me. It is an understatement to say that I am busting-at-the-seams proud to be your most Senior Enlisted Leader. Chief Loadmaster Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Marino refers to matters such as these as family business. Brothers and Sisters, it has been my highest honor to serve you all in this branch of the family business here at Youngstown Air Reserve Station.