Air Guard officials discuss top concerns at leadership summit

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
  • National Guard Bureau
Safety, culture and the Air National Guard's future were among topics adjutants general, wing commanders, command chief master sergeants and others from around the nation discussed at a recent conference in Wisconsin.

More than 500 Air National Guard senior leaders and safety experts met at the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center Aug. 11-15 for the Air Guard's 2008 Leadership Summit.

Lt. Gen. Craig R. McKinley, director of the Air National Guard; Maj. Gen. Wendell L. Griffin, the Air Force's chief of safety and commander of the Air Force Safety Center; and Brig. Gen. Garry C. Dean, the Air Force's deputy inspector general, were among the speakers.

The summit carried a theme of "A look at safety, culture and other challenges," and it provided a venue for the leaders, guest speakers and other subject-matter experts to discuss what is working well for the Air Guard and what could work better, said Col. Marcus Quint, director of safety for the Air Guard, who oversaw the conference.

He said that the primary focus of the summit was discuss trends in safety and safety mitigation strategies "to get them in focus during our turbulent time of day-to-day operations."

Colonel Quint said the conference participants understood the need to refocus on safety after back-to-back years of Air Force safety mishaps followed the Air Guard's historically best flight safety year in 2006.

"They wanted to be exposed to the safety discussion at the senior leadership level, and that's what they got," he said.

"I just think this summit, which we've done for several years now, helps us focus on very important topics," said General McKinley. "This event allows us to come together as senior commissioned and enlisted leaders and re-energize and commit ourselves to making the Air National Guard better through strong leadership," he said.

Before a packed room, Maj. Stephen Stilwell of the Missouri Air National Guard described in graphic detail how his F-15 Eagle broke apart in flight during a November 2007 training mission. His left shoulder was dislocated and his left arm was broken. He shared his recovery story about getting medical care and other assistance as a traditional Guardmember injured on drill status.

Colonel Quint said having someone describe his experience in a [class-A] mishap, and how he dealt with its aftermath personalized the safety message.

"Commanders need to have such information at their fingertips ... that is going to help them take care of Guardsman," he said.

He said it was also valuable for wing commanders and vice commanders to network with the hundreds of Air Guard safety professionals in attendance.

General Griffin gave a keynote speech on Air Force safety following discussions on Air Guard safety trends, statistics and strategies. The statistics showed that traffic accidents, motorcycle accidents and sports and recreation accidents were the main causes of accidental death and injury in the Air Force.

The conference discussed the likely causes of those accidents and injuries including failures to wear seat belts, using cell phones while driving and not wearing protective motorcycle gear.

Colonel Quint stressed the importance of having effective and targeted strategies to stamp out poor risk management.

"We have to find ways to make safety a part of our daily routine and cultural outlook," he said.

Culture and diversity was another important part of the summit, officials said. Among other presentations, officials of the Air Guard's Office of Cultural Transformation presented a Gallup poll program to apply toward the Air Guard's strength-based development.

Conferees discussed how focusing on workplace strengths in skill placement can increase Airmen's engagement in their jobs, help maintain an Airman's high quality of life and reduce the Air Guard's overall safety mishaps.

Brig. Gen. Garry C. Dean, the Air Force's deputy IG, then addressed conferees on the IG perspective in culture, accountability and leadership.

"It's really simple," said General McKinley. "When it comes to safety, diversity and our culture, and insisting on the highest standards in those and other areas, it all comes down to one thing: You can trace everything back to leadership."

The director also discussed his philosophy and vector of Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, and he answered questions during separate sessions with the adjutants general as well as wing commanders and command chiefs.

Final break-out sessions provided forums for 13 adjutants general, the Air Guard's steering committee for long range planning, senior mentors and subject matter experts from the major commands and the National Guard Bureau.

The groups worked on proposals as a whole and discussed the roadmap guidance for the Air Guard.

Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, commander of the Hawaii Air National Guard and steering committee chair, oversaw the discussions.

The results were distributed to the field Aug. 22 for senior leaders to gather comments and report back. The resulting drafts and roadmap guidance will be further refined until the Air Guard's national planning conference this fall in Austin, Texas, officials said.

"It's a dynamic process. It's not a document you produce and put on the shelf," said Brig. Gen. Donald Haught, vice chair for the steering committee. "We are basically building a way ahead for the Air Guard."

Some of the many issues the leaders looked at were:

-- Cyber missions: Discussing what interest the Air Guard will have in future cyber missions.
-- Air defense: Defining air defense requirements to develop a program with a better funding base for air sovereignty alerts and other demands that follow air defense.
-- State joint force headquarters: Realizing that sourcing joint force headquarters is a high priority for the adjutants general.
-- Total Force: Defining the way ahead for how the field will integrate with the Air Force and operate in the future.
-- Homeland defense: Meeting homeland security and homeland defense requirements and capabilities, this will be evaluated and aligned with the National Guard Bureau's joint requirements and capabilities.
-- Mission fit: Discussing how well a mission fits in a state and if it's the right mission for that state, can the state recruit to the mission, and does it have an industrial base that allows it to do the mission easier than another place.
-- Mission distribution guidelines: Discussing the use of FEMA regions as criteria to ensure essential capabilities are in each state and the Air Guard's role in those regions.

General Haught said the roadmap event was well received by those in attendance.

"Developing this roadmap guidance is just another step in the process for us to do a long range planning and to decide our future," he said. "The field definitely has a loud voice in the process. Their input will decide how it all works and goes together."