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Welsh: Empower airmen to do what they think is best

Sep. 17, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
AFA MWM 20130917
Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh says one of his concerns is the boredom some airmen grapple with. (Mike Morones/ Staff)
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If it sounds stupid, don’t do it, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh advised airmen, supervisors and commanders Tuesday.

“We’ve got a lot of frustrated people out at the front end of the Air Force who don’t understand why they are given guidance to do things that don’t make any sense to them,” Welsh said at the Air Force Association Air & Space Conference in National Harbor, Md. “My answer to them is they shouldn’t do it. Just quit.”

The service has hundreds of instructions, many of which have not been updated in a long time, he said.

“If it doesn’t make common sense, if it doesn’t make the mission better, if it doesn’t take better care of our people, then just don’t do it and tell your boss you’re done.”

It may come as a surprise to some airmen that they don’t have to follow outdated guidance, but Welsh insisted he is “dead serious” and added the heads of the major commands understand the need to empower airmen to do what they think is best.

“We’ve got to empower our airmen better than they’ve ever been empowered,” Welsh said. “They’re remarkably capable and they don’t feel empowered, they don’t feel like they can make decisions or make suggestions because they don’t think that anybody would listen to them. We’ve got to change that. If we don’t, we’ll fail.”

Going forward, one of Welsh’s concerns is retention, especially of flight-rated airmen.

“Expect airlines to start hiring at the end of this year; our rated force has options as they go out of their required period of service,” he said. “They’ve served really proudly, they’ve served exceptionally well and now they got choices to make.”

If the Air Force does not give them the training and resources they need to be the best, they will opt to leave the service, Welsh said. The Air Force is so concerned about this that it recently offered about 250 eligible fighter pilots a $225,000 bonus in exchange for a nine-year commitment.

Welsh said he is concerned about another challenge airmen have to grapple with: boredom.

Budget cuts led the Air Force to ground several squadrons this year. When Welsh visited one base recently, a maintainer said he was bored and planned to leave the service after his required four years.

“I haven’t heard anybody say, ‘Life is boring’ in the Air Force for the last 12 years,” Welsh said. “But they’re sitting around looking at airplanes on the ramp. This guy works in the maintenance business and he’s bored as a two-striper. That’s a little scary.”

At the beginning of his speech, Welsh offered his condolences to the Navy and those affected by Monday’s shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Twelve people and the gunman were killed.

“Nobody expects to go to work and die,” he said. “This is just wrong.”

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