Top AFSPC enlisted leader makes first visit to Patrick, Cape
By Airman 1st Class David Dobrydney , 45th SW Public Affairs
/ Published September 18, 2008
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. -- Air Force Space Command Chief Master Sgt. Todd Small paid his first visit to Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station September 11 and 12.
Seven months into his service as AFSPC's top enlisted leader, Chief Small was eager to learn more about how the 45th Space Wing fits into the Air Force.
He liked what he saw.
"My first introduction to the launch business as it's being done here at Patrick was very insightful for me," he said.
The wing's head enlisted leader agrees.
"Chief Small's visit was a great success. The men and women of the 45th Space Wing provided Chief Small with an in-depth overview of our unique mission sets," said 45th Space Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Vannorsdall.
"Chief Small's visit to AFSPC wings and installations help form a strategic view of how the command is doing in terms of mission success, leadership, and taking care of Airman and their families," he said.
His first day was spent visiting several facilities at Cape Canaveral. At the Morrell Operations Center, he met several members of the 1st Range Operations and 45th Weather Squadrons, learning about how they support and monitor launches.
A pleasant surprise came when he recognized 45th WS member Senior Master Sgt. Ian Bohnen as one of his comrades from basic training, nearly 25 years ago. As they walked down the hall they reminisced about their drill instructors. "He hasn't changed a bit," the chief quipped, referring to Sgt. Bohnen.
Besides meeting an old friend, Chief Small was very impressed with what he saw. "It's a pleasure to have this opportunity, brief as it is, to see you," he said to a group of 1st ROPS members.
"On behalf of General Kehler and the entire command team, thanks for what you're doing here. Your work makes a difference," he said.
Everywhere he went, the Chief took interest in members' careers; where was their last duty station? Have they been deployed? One member had recently returned from Afghanistan, and Chief Small immediately struck up a conversation with him about the area and what he thought of working in a joint environment.
Another Airman had just returned from her first deployment to Saudi Arabia. "It's good to just go through the deployment process, to see who you're supporting," Chief Small said to her.
Chief Small's people skills weren't lost on those he spoke with. "It's important to me that a leader comes to see how the troops are doing in the field he's managing," said Staff Sgt. Rebecca Cone of the 1st ROPS.
"It shows us that our work is appreciated and that leaders are genuinely concerned about our personal development as Airmen."
Chief Small also asked about how the units were manned with regards to officers and enlisted.
"One of the reasons I ask that is to understand the mix of the squadron, how many leaders they have and what leadership roles they're in, the challenges that come with the squadron makeup," he said.
"Young Airmen require training; the more you have, the more taskings you have on the NCO leaders to ensure the junior enlisted Airmen are getting the right kinds of training. It helps me form an assessment of the roles, functions and missions, levels of responsibility for the enlisted force."'
Indeed, Chief Small took advantage at lunchtime to speak to 30 NCOs about the recently begun Year of Leadership within AFSPC. In the aftermath of recent incidents involving the Air Force's nuclear arsenal, Chief Small said he and AFSPC Commander Gen. C. Robert Kehler felt it necessary to compose a plan to ensure effective leadership across the Command.
"It's trying to get us focused on what we do already in many respects... and to help give the wing commanders and command chiefs some structure through which to focus their year of leadership efforts," he said.
Chief Small went on to say that senior NCOs are asked to not only guide those enlisted members that come behind them, but also to help develop the young officers who will go on to lead the Air Force. As part of the command's Year of Leadership, he said when senior NCOs attend their professional enhancement course a company grade officer is going to attend with them, "to start forging those relationships, and honing their understanding of the leadership team effort at the outset of their service as a senior NCO."
Chief Small wrapped up his tour with visits to Space Launch Complex 41, marveling at the Atlas V booster currently under assembly there, and the Spacecraft Processing Facility, where he donned full protective gear to venture into the ultra-clean environment where a GPS satellite was being prepared for launch atop a Delta II booster.
After spending his second day visiting units on Patrick Air Force Base, Chief Small was asked what was the most impressive thing he had seen during his visit?
"The most impressive piece of this is the complexity of the mission set. This is very complex work done by extremely professional and extremely capable Airmen.
"I can't wait to get back here during a launch to see the Wing in full mission execution mode."