Command Chiefs Offer Wisdom

  • Published
  • By TSgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Integrity. Attitude. And talk of mobilizing for war.

The six men who have served as the command chief master sergeant in the 127th Wing gathered together in March to welcome in the newest member of their exclusive club, as Chief Master Sgt. Robert Dobson received the star in his chevrons to denote him as the wing command chief. It marked the first time that all of the wing's command chiefs had been together in a group.

Prior to the ceremony, each of the men offered advice to today's Airmen and talked about their biggest challenges while serving with the wing.

Chief Master Sgt. James Hewett (ret.) did not technically serve as the wing's command chief. He held the position of Senior Enlisted Advisor (SEA) from 1993 to 1998. The SEA was the forerunner to the current position of command chief. During Hewett's time as a chief, the Air Force changed the appearance of the chevrons for the top three enlisted positions, removing a stripe from the bottom of the chevrons and adding one to the top.

Advice: Hewett said that attitude and education are paramount to an Airmen's career success.

"Those two things, in tandem, will carry you through most things," the chief said.

Challenge: Hewett said the biggest challenge during his tenure was making the transition from two wings into one. Prior to the mid-1990s, the Michigan Air National Guard operated two separate commands in the Detroit region, the 127th Fighter Wing and the 191st Airlift Group. The two organizations were consolidated in 1996 into the current 127th Wing. Hewett said bringing the two organizations together was a challenge.

"There were two cultures, two different major commands. The transition had to address that and many other things. We had to put it all together," he said.

CMSgt. William Livesay (ret.) was the first member of the wing to actually wear the command chief's star. He served as the wing's SEA for several months in 1998 before officially becoming the wing command chief. He held the position into 2000 before retiring.

Advice: "Mission first. People always," he said.

Challenge: Livesay said the biggest issue he faced was integrating with the active duty force.

"That was always a challenge, trying to make sure both sides understood the other."

CMSgt. Michael Dalton served as the command chief for the 127th Wing from 2000 to 2003. Since that time, he has served as the command chief for the Michigan Air National Guard at state headquarters in Lansing.

Advice: Dalton said it is crucial that all Airmen be prepared.

"You never know when an opportunity might arise, what challenge will pop up," he said. "The ones who are prepared to use that opportunity or tackle that challenge are the ones who will rise to the top."

Challenge: As the wing and state command chief, Dalton said his biggest challenge has been dealing with all of the changes that have resulted from the 2005 federal Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) program. It was the BRAC decisions which caused the wing to transition to new aircraft and brought about numerous other changes to the Selfridge base and to the Michigan Air National Guard.

"BRAC presented many challenges, but also many opportunities," Dalton said.

CMSgt. Stephen Krajewski (ret.) wore the star in the wing from 2003 to 2008.

Advice: Krajewski said attitude is everything.

"When we were in Iraq, those with the bad attitudes were there the longest and those with the good attitudes were there the shortest. But we were all there the same number of days," Krajewski said.

Challenge: Krajewski was the command chief during the largest war-time mobilization of the wing since the Korean War. In 2003, the wing sent a squadron of F-16s and support personnel to Iraq.

"To see the wing come together for that was just amazing," Krajewski said. "And when I say the wing, I mean the entire wing -- spouses, Title 5 civilians, along with the Airmen. It was a total team effort."

CMSgt. Keith Edwards (ret.) served as the wing command chief from 2008 through March of this year.

Advice: Maintain integrity in all things, Edwards said.

Challenge: Edwards said the transition to different types of aircraft and all the attending change to that event presented challenges, but also opportunities.

"Change is constant. But change equals growth. Growth equals improvement. Improvement equals progress," he said. "Without change, we would all be walking to work, because the wheel never would have been invented."

CMSgt. Robert Dobson began his tenure as command chief in March.

He said he is stressing several points as his priorities: professionalism, military education and good communication.

Dobson said he hopes to use several social media tools to enhance the level of communication around the wing's enlisted force.

Dobson will be speaking more about his plans and goals during two enlisted calls during the April UTA.

During the gathering of the current and former command chiefs, the chiefs estimated that together, they represented more than 200 years of combined military service and experience working on, around or with a couple dozen different airframes.