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AFMC command chief emphasizes understanding one's role

by Michelle Gigante
Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs

3/14/2008 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- The stigma that Airmen assigned to Air Force Materiel Command are not part of the war on terrorism fight is one the command's top enlisted member is working to correct.

"There are segments of people -- ranging from enlisted members within AFMC to those in other Air Force major commands -- who equate being in the 'fight' by having their boots in the sand," said Chief Master Sgt. William Gurney, AFMC's seventh command chief.

"First and foremost, the Air Force is in the fight every day," he said. "And AFMC has deployed and continues to deploy Airmen to Afghanistan and the Middle East -- from mission support personnel, to security forces, to explosive ordnance disposal, to vehicle operators and many other career fields."

"In addition, far away from the front lines, AFMC's work force has its fingerprints all over game changing technology, a topic addressed by the Air Force Chief of Staff (Gen. T. Michael Moseley) in his recent White Paper," Chief Gurney said. "This is a critical aspect to both today's fight and our strategic vision and is a big part of what our command is about."

In his current position, which he assumed in February, Chief Gurney is responsible for the training, education and readiness of AFMC's 12,700 enlisted Airmen. Regarding AFMC's strategic vision for its enlisted Airmen, Chief Gurney said constant communication is crucial.

"It's critical for people in senior positions to provide that linkage so our Airmen understand where they fit in and have the broader picture of what we are doing as an Air Force," the chief said, "because we also have to focus on what is going to happen five, 10 or 15 years from now."

He said he describes his personal communication style as "the eternal optimist. I'm always looking for the positive elements. I try to take a step back and view an issue from all angles."

He said a predominant intelligence background that took him to several foreign countries along with an 18-month assignment as command chief for Ogden Air Logistics Center and the 75th Air Base Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, have shaped his outlook.

"My experiences have helped me to see new places and cultures," Chief Gurney said. "Those experiences also have disciplined me to put myself in the other person's shoes and to understand different perspectives. I am very cautious in how I communicate to others and in how I engage in the decision-making process."

Chief Gurney recently attended a one-week course with the Air Force Enterprise Management Seminar at the University of North Carolina. The program helps senior leaders in the areas of decision making and change management processes at a strategic level.

"The course teaches you how to face extremely tough decisions as an institution in a systematic approach, such as budget cuts and, in the Air Force's case, the need to recapitalize our fleet," Chief Gurney said. "It's challenging, because the Air Force has to make cuts to a lot of the programs that Airmen have grown accustomed to. That can create a mindset among some Airmen that their benefits/services are going away or eroding. We have to be careful that we don't let that permeate too much and keep our focus on taking care of our Airmen and their families. There is a lot of truth in the phrase 'We enlist the individual, we retain the family.'"

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