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New rule directs commanders to 'engage' in airmen's lives

May. 21, 2014 - 06:19PM   |  
Lt. Gen. Tod Wolters, 12th Air Force commander, visits Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in February. A new Air Force instruction directs all commanders to get to know their airmen, manage their time and keep morale in check.
Lt. Gen. Tod Wolters, 12th Air Force commander, visits Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, in February. A new Air Force instruction directs all commanders to get to know their airmen, manage their time and keep morale in check. (Air Force)
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Air Force commanders must pay close attention to the morale and welfare of their subordinates, according to a new Air Force Instruction.

AFI 1-2, titled “Commander’s Responsibilities” and dated May 8, said that commanders have to be aware of issues — both on- and off-duty — that could affect the climate and morale of their units.

“Commanders have the unique authority and responsibility to engage in the lives of their subordinates, where appropriate, to improve quality of life, promote unit morale, and ensure all members are treated with dignity and respect,” the AFI said.

This portion of the AFI fits with an expected element of the revised feedback form for enlisted airmen, which is called the Airman Comprehensive Assessment, and is due to be released by the end of May. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody said in a January video that as part of the revised feedback form, supervisors could ask their airmen questions about their finances, relationships and other personal matters that could affect their Air Force careers.

“We’re going to get to the point where we’re asking you questions that today we’re probably not comfortable talking about with each other — finances, relationships, all the things that impact your ability to be an airman in our Air Force,” Cody said in the video.

The AFI also said commanders must communicate freely with their subordinates about goals and expectations — and encourage their subordinates to share feedback with them.

“Commanders must develop a two-way vertical and lateral communication system which is agile enough to respond to changes in the environment in a timely manner,” the AFI said. “In order to develop understanding, intent and trust, commanders must transmit goals, priorities, values and expectations, while encouraging feedback.”

The AFI orders the service’s commanders to lead by example, “display exemplary conduct,” and “be above reproach, both morally and ethically” and foster a healthy command climate that treats subordinates with dignity and respect.

“Our single most important job as commanders is to take care of the sons and daughters our nation has entrusted to us,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in a May 21 release.

Commanders have the responsibility to safeguard the morale, physical well-being and general welfare of persons under their command, the AFI said.

“A healthy climate ensures members are treated with dignity, respect and inclusion, and does not tolerate harassment, assault or unlawful discrimination of any kind,” the AFI said.

The AFI also said supervisors have to respect their airmen’s time.

“While airmen are always subject to duty, leaders cannot treat their subordinates’ time as an unlimited resource,” the AFI said. “Commanders must strive to maintain a stable and predictable work schedule for subordinates, while balancing mission requirements and additional duties.”

If a unit’s mission requirements are changed significantly enough to require more man-hours than are currently authorized, commanders should ask for additional manpower or other measures to lighten the load.

The AFI is intended to put all commanders on the same page as far as standards and conduct.

“For the first time, the Air Force now has an instruction which sets the minimum standard for successful command,” said Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Stephen Mueller. “A great byproduct of this instruction is a standardized template for evaluating and inspecting all Air Force commanders along for common major graded areas.”

Commanders also are responsible for maintaining discipline among their airmen, supporting the professional and personal development of their subordinates, and ensuring their units are adequately trained through a “building-block approach.”

“Individuals must be proficient in career-field specific skills before incorporating those skills into team and unit training,” the AFI said.

And the AFI said commanders must properly manage their limited resources — including manpower, funds, equipment, facilities and environment, guidance, and airmen’s time — and consider risk to ensure units get their jobs done effectively and efficiently. Higher-echelon commanders must ensure subordinate commanders have adequate resources, but subordinate commanders also must tell their higher-ups when they are facing shortfalls.

Commanders must inspect their subordinates and subordinate units, the AFI said.

“Part of this effort must be a self-assessment program where individual airmen report their compliance with guidance,” the AFI said.

And commanders must base their decisions on the best data that is available. When data is limited or unavailable, the AFI said, commanders must use their experience, judgment and all available resources to make a decision.

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