Chevrons Podcast

The Chevrons podcast endeavors to gather valuable experience and information from notable individuals from across the spectrum of the enlisted force. From junior enlisted to senior leaders and those in between, we will address everyday challenges and hurdles the enlisted force faces. Our guests are welcome to impart their experience, knowledge and philosophy onto our audience – the enlisted force.

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Audio by Airman Francesca Skridulis

Chevrons - Ep 001 - Command Chief of the Air National Guard

  • 102nd Intelligence Wing
  • June 3, 2021 | 32:10

Chief Maurice Williams, Command Chief of the Air National Guard, shared his thoughts and unique perspectives on enlisted development, domestic operations, leadership and the future role of the air national guard.


Sullivan: welcome air warriors to our podcast of chevrons i am chief master sergeant Sean Sullivan

Skridulis: and i'm airman Francesca Skridulis today we just had a great conversation with the command chief master sergeant of the air national guard Chief Master Sergeant Maurice Williams we got to ask him some questions about enlisted development and talk to him about some bigger picture stuff as well

Sullivan: yes and he provided us with some really really great tidbits of different things that are in the works one of those is a senior nco enhancement course for e7s and e8s we also talked a bit about domestic operations and what the future role of the air national guard is going to be

Skridulis: and we had a great time we think you will too so enjoy the interview

Skridulis: thank you again for talking to us i'm just going to start right out as the command chief master sergeant of the air national guard you're obviously responsible for the development of a lot of airmen and you offer the enlisted perspective at the highest level and so then i was just wondering how much time do you spend with the average enlisted airman and what tools do you use to make sure that you're addressing everyone's concerns

Williams: i started trying to spend as much time as possible and that drives my schedule as i get out to the wings and visit the wings and have individual settings with luncheons with airmen and also have enlisted calls so i can really feel the pulse of our organization because that's what the you know director air national guard want me to do to be able to understand the personal obligation how much the airmen really need and also i talk with my peers and my staff i get feedback from them and the command chiefs out in the field every time i have a visit and really get that one-on-one in airmen so i know that i'm meeting the needs that i am and what they really need out there because they have concerns and they may be small concerns big concerns but hey we need to address them all so that's one of my goals is right now one of the things you know within my position i'll probably be traveling up from you know over about 230 days out of the year so i can try to hit as many wings as possible to be out there the goal is to hit all 90 wings but my previous predecessors didn't hit all 90 wings and this was pre-covid so my chances may be slim but i'll hit all 54 to get out there and hear them all but that's that's my i'll get out there and hear the voice of airmen

Skridulis: that's that's awesome that's a lot of travel i didn't even think about that when i was considering you know getting out to meet everybody you you don't get to do that from your office obviously so that's that's cool you make that sacrifice in order to reach us

Williams: yes that's right

Sullivan: hey command chief I have a question for you in chief of staff of the air force action orders in accelerate change or lose action order c stresses the importance that we understand our near peer competition for power and our ever-changing relationships that we have with China and Russia it's really difficult to find good sources of factual and valid information for our airmen what unclassified source documents or information outlets have you found that we can refer to our airmen so they can get a really good site picture on what's actually happening

Williams: so that’s one of the things that I’ll be speaking as I go out and tour and one of the things is i'm going to encourage all senior enlisted to start having forms for their airmen for example you know if you work in the intel unit and possibly ops unit you may get a brief maybe at the secret level maybe just unclassified on a aor location but we need to be doing an all wings all around the wings in this support group lrs and so one of the things i tell airmen all the time is hey utilize different news outlets not just one because we'll get narrow folks to use multiple news outlets and cross-reference those news outlets as you look at those and see what information is correct which things are contradicting and there are several websites out there also if you look at NPR Rudders those type websites out there that i would recommend to gather information to make sure it's valid and some information and consistent but one of the things i want to focus on mostly when i'm traveling is definitely having those briefings within our organization to make sure all airmen are informed that we are educated on our near peer competitors as we look at those action orders that we have

Sullivan: thank you chief

Skridulis: and then chief with our episode being focused on enlisted development what do you think is the most pivotal part of this that will really make it work and take effect

Williams: one of the things with enlisted development that's one of my major focus areas and one of the things i'm doing i'm pushing development down to the lowest level for example we have enlisted development opportunities that come out each year the national guard push it out and they're for command chiefs and chiefs what i've the steps i've taken is push those down where some of the courses are down for your senior master sergeant and master sergeant and i also put some of the command chiefs choices down to chief master sergeant so we can deliver develop people at the lower level and i've also started a new course it's called a single use and enhancement course it's for e-7s in in e8s and i want to get them exposed to the national level in what the readiness center can provide for them and let them understand the strategic thinking such as the chief of staff action orders the director of the air national guard focus point priorities in my focus areas that's what that course will be provided for e-7s and e8's and it'll be a four-day course and i'll offer four courses a year we have two beta courses going on in July and one in September next year you'll be able to go to your force development office and sign up for those courses you know and that's one of the ways i want to enhance the professional development within our air national guard

Skridulis: that's awesome those courses sound like a really good opportunity for for those for those airmen do you think that obviously down to the lowest level chiefs and master sergeants are very important do you think that enlisted development starts there do you think enlisted development starts at an e1 where do you think it really takes priority or maybe it just doesn't have any priority who who needs to initiate that

Williams: i think it starts you know at the lowest level at e1 because of that at that point we can grow that individual when they enter our basic training military basic training and then they go into tech school that development should start at that point as we grow them into what we're looking at now in the international garden air force is growing that airmen to the airmen of 2030 to be provided to be competitive while near peer average services you think about it right now that airmen that we're looking at to grow to come in our air force in 2030 is nine years old so currently we need to be looking at the future we the future leaders we need and put them develop them today and so that's why we got to start at the lowest level and start enhancing that growth early in their career so we can get some return on investment as they come up in the ranks so i would say at e1 and all the grades above that and we're adding additional development opportunities even at the airmen leadership school we're looking at a course called prepping the line to build individuals for to take on as a nco to help people lead those individuals so that's how we're starting at the lowest level and growing up

Skridulis: that sounds awesome thank you sir

Sullivan: chief that's excellent that we're doing this because as now a chief the one thing i found going from the master sergeant to the senior mass sergeant ranks is you don't know what you don't know until you need to know it and i think this is going to do a much better job at arming our future leaders as they as they rise up the ranks so i'm really looking forward to see that program but now i want to turn to recruiting one of the biggest issues that i think we've been having in our wing and talking to other chiefs from around the 90 is retaining and recruiting more people than we're tending to lose on an average basis and the recruiting picture for the ang has changed because we're now using that combined resources to recruit new talent between all three components i know that the active duty reserves and guards they've all kind of combined recruiting efforts is there any early data to show any effectiveness from an a-n-g perspective are are we getting more good talented recruits through this process

Williams: well currently right now is you know the program the new initiative started in 2021 when it really kicked off they had been talking about a few years but it really kicked off at the beginning of fy 2021 and it's too early to see if this has an enhanced the recruiting stats and data as we are today because covid came you know with the covid environment that has stagnated a little bit so it's really too early to look at it currently right now you know the air force is is over there end strength and we made some changes to our palace chase and palace front program to get those individuals over to transfer over into the reserve component and hopefully that will buy us away we just recently received an audit from the palace chase palace front program and there's some things that we need to do in our air national guard but currently the recruiters of course are operating different right now but hopefully this initiative we will see the fruits of the labor this new initiative i just recently saw first time saw some of the air national guard commercials out there that's showing on tv so that's part of that and hopefully we can see some data in the future but we're i'm asking the recruiting team to monitor that and hopefully by next year we'll have some data to see if that has helped us all in within our organization

Sullivan: thanks chief and just does a little bit of a follow-up on that there's clear guidance as an air force that we kind of need to do a better job in matching skill sets with corresponding afscs i mean how else can we accelerate change what are your thoughts on adjusting standards of enlistment for talent management and i'm particularly thinking about the cyber fields you know for example you find a really great talented cyber warfare individual but that applicant might have some physical limitations that wouldn't allow them to meet the normal current meps criteria let's say they have some type of a physical ailment etc is there any thought or your what are your thoughts of possibly trying to match afsc need with the individual in waiving some criteria

Williams: well you know i think we need to be a very diverse organization and what i mean by that we don't need to have barriers to prevent individuals from serving which meets the standards within our organization because i'm a standardized individual and from my perspective not lowering the standards to have individuals join our organization but keeping the standards there but we don't want standards there that discriminate against individuals for example the height requirement for our career listed aviators is being lowered down to 64 inches due to 45 percent of the female and 7 percent of minorities do not are below that measuring the current height of that they have established out there but far as meeting the standard because you know we need to maintain those standards as you know we don't know what type of engagement we'll get in whether it's physical so we need individuals to be physically fit to stay in our ranks so from my perspective i'm not in support of changing those requirements and moving forward to allow individuals that cannot meet the physical strengths requirement to be in to wear the uniform

Sullivan: copy that chief thank you

Skridulis: yeah it just kind of seems like a matter of being being prepared you know you never know what's going to come up probably

Williams: that's right

Skridulis: along with being prepared what are some things that you have done or especially now that you continue to do because while you are the command chief you i mean there's always room to grow i think so what are things that you do to improve yourself either in in the national guard or just in your personal life

Williams: well one of the things i kind of have a regular routine i'm a big John Maxwell fan so i read every day i have a daily reader that i read that have different topics with John Maxwell that i view every morning to start my day off and also i just you know come in and always ask the team team 13 that has to call my staff for feedback on things that i'm doing and get their feedback to see how we're moving the organization are the ideas i have do they fit with the average airman out there or will it enhance the airmens the average airman's career because i'm a big advocate of professional development in education so i try to keep myself grounded in learning something new every time i have an opportunity and that's usually through reading reading some extend caught up with the current events and just something leadership reading each day to keep myself because one thing i always tell individuals you got to constantly invest in yourself if you don't invest in yourself you don't have anything to give someone else and that's what i need to do as a air national guard command chief out here serving 92,000 enlisted folks in our organization

Skridulis: yeah yeah i i just relate this to Sully i think i was talking to you a little bit earlier one of the things you said you used to do is you were always reading leadership stuff and stuff like that so that's that's cool you guys have that in common

Williams: right

Sullivan: constantly i have a entire library full to fill full of leadership books and and you can always pull a gem out of it i think that great leadership is a perishable skill if you're not continuously trying to practice being a good leader then you could fall into leadership ruts shall we say

Williams: that's right that's right you know you gotta try different things and listen to different things it always give you like i say those nuggets that you find things that can help you out just in your daily life and make you a better individual

Sullivan: chief i have a question for you on modernization and innovation that's one of your focus areas and what great ideas have been brought to your attention by our enlisted force and what changes have been made by empowering airmen to work on these ideas

Williams: hey that's a great question and you know as i travel around i see a lot of different things one of my last trips i was out in Puerto Rico and i was talking to airmen out in that particular location you know and that's one of the areas where coley was hit hit pretty hard and of course it hit across our nation but it got hit pretty hard and they're being geographically separated he was telling me how he saw something on the internet and he utilized that by using a 3d printer to help build face shields that they use throughout the island within the organization and throughout the island to get ahead of the game to provide some ppe for the organization and also you know just recently too i was out in the state of Texas and the national guard team out there was inaugural national guard winner for the innovation competition and one of the things they're using too is the 3d printer and one of the things that helps out with those 3d printers that i see i go around the country at our units where our c130hs are in our kc-135 because those aircraft are so old so getting those parts take a while but they're utilizing throughout innovation forms in the national guard to buy 3d printers and they can make those parts they need rather to make some parts they cannot order because the manufacturer does not exist anymore but they're able to get the parts to make a design for it and utilize it to put on the aircraft as we move you know as we still have some pretty old aircraft in our inventory but those are some of the things that i've seen out there within our enterprises really those 3d printers through the innovation form to have a great success on our airmen

Sullivan: as a an old military member I started in the marine corps back in 1982. i think that the most refreshing change i have seen in the military is the empowerment of our younger enlisted force and initiatives like this because it wasn't so long ago that your first four five six ranks in the military was all about just sitting in the back and listening and and we don't want to hear from you unless we tell you we want to hear from you so i think that this empowerment movement and all these great ideas is really going to help us accelerate our change and develop a great force so i love hearing stories about what our great airmen are doing and especially 3d printers that's that's some pretty incredible stuff

Williams: yes it's amazing and that's that's one of the most you know things that we want to do you know as you know as cq Brown talk about his action orders of airmen that's one of the things empowering at the lower level we got to take some risks to have those airmen use those ideas and empower them to make a change because our near peer adversaries are making changes every day and we got to stay ahead of the game to accelerate to stay in the fight

Sullivan: definitely

Skridulis: yeah on the subject of initiative and empowerment that's obviously a big part of enlisted development is you know showing that initiative as as an airman coming up through the ranks and then looking for those chances to be in powered or as a as a leader empowering those below you when you are coming up in your career did you have leaders that supported those sort of innovating efforts that you had

Williams: well i you know next in July i've been in the military 34 years so as when i was coming up it was there was no there wasn't any empowerment movement and you just do as you were told it didn't ask any questions so it was a different type military a different type of style i tell them you know i tell leaders today hey you got to think about what supervisor that you need when you was airman

Skridulis: right

Williams: that's what you need to provide to our airmen today and so during those times i did not have that support system in that way but i did have a real disciplinary chief that i worked up under and he pushed me to do things and step outside of my comfort zone to do things and provided opportunities for me but it was very in a very rugged way it wasn't it wasn't in an influential way where we got some motivation about us told this is what you're gonna do with no question behind it on how it would help me so i did not have that in my career so that's why i tried to change it as i became a leader to have that motivation inspiration to inspire people to change things they do in their life and tell them the why behind it and how it can help them in the future so i had to flip that around

Skridulis: absolutely i mean i understand why there might be reasons for you know just blindly following sometimes but but it's a lot easier when when you know the why behind what you're doing so my next question for you now is for airmen coming up that might not have that support or don't have those kind of leaders that are leading the way that maybe the air force is turning with that empowerment how would you suggest that they get over those hurdles and really make those brilliant ideas they have happen

Williams: right well i definitely would highly recommend today we we live in a very advanced technology world and reaching out to people even if you're following leaders on social media they're putting out nuggets and providing guidance every day to individuals to help them be successful in their lives and to be on a more personal level i definitely would identify someone that i know that i would want to recommend to be a mentor for me now mentor or a coach because coaching and mentoring is two two different things you know i look at coaching the short term mentoring is long term i look at coaching as being task oriented i look at mentoring as being developmental so you got to find someone that you want to have as a coach or you want to have as a mentor to help build that and help you grow with as an individual in the uniform and out of the uniform so that's what i would recommend anyone looking out for someone like that and also following someone on social media who who has those tools and insight that you're inspired to be or the direction you want to go in

Skridulis: yeah definitely like you said so even if your leadership might not be supportive you know right like we said technology we're connected to leaders everywhere now especially with that social media so i mean nobody's alone in it if you're not getting that support

Williams: that's correct

Sullivan: hey chief i have a question as far as domestic operations in our country this has been a huge huge year for the guard with a variety of domestic operations and i'm sure this is increased awareness on the hill of what the guard capabilities are have you seen any increase in the role of the ang and domestic operations in any areas that we previously were not involved in or any new areas that may emerge where you could see the role of the air national guard being used more in domestic type operations

Williams: yes i do you know currently a lot of times we had never been utilized as a defense force or a place to a force to secure buildings or location like that as much as we did here previously so that role has picked up our quick reaction team during the inauguration we had over 2,700 security forces down at our nation's capital to provide a peaceful transition from one commandment chief over to the other and we did that no security forces some of those divided up as quick reaction force teams and some of them just provided security around the different monuments and the events during that time period and we also had people that provided security in providing some of the intel for what was going on around the country so i could see us engaged in more intel and also into the security aspect and based on actions that we've taken over the last year it's been a huge as you mentioned it's been a huge year for the national guard and the international guard in itself in the things that we've deployed and done even with the covid too so that role has expanded will expand and especially within the medical field we provided more medical individuals than our counterparts on the army side in helping with the covid operation so i do see that in the intel within the cyber community hey within security and within the medical area those three areas right there i see us expanding a lot more based on what we're doing we're popping on the hill now and what we have provided with our nation during this time we never had this many people deployed before in the national guard since world war ii we had over about 40,000 people overall in the world being deployed just within domestic operations

Sullivan: well those are some incredible numbers as you have gone around and met with our folks out in the field how are they holding up to the this new operations tempo

Williams: well you know it's pretty rapid and they're holding up well but you know of course with time and time and time again people are getting some people get burnt out because it's been a constant on orders we just had a large group the last group that was at the nation's capital come off orders here just on the 23rd of May the last group we had like two thousand majority of those were army soldiers that were still up at the nation's capital but we still have people out on covid missions and one particular area is as i speak to as i'm out around is our medical folks because with the covid mission we have so many people out of our medical groups and that's one area that i hear the most about saying they're getting burned out because a lot of their people of course are in the medical profession and they're being utilized at their civilian job and then also they're asking people to be on domestic operations within the air national guard so that's one of the areas that i've seen the most concern of people getting burned out

Sullivan: i know as as supervisors in our wing we we're keeping a good eye on our people making sure that they're staying resilient and focused and trying to maintain a good wingmanship all around and i'm sure that's going to be the flavor across the 90 as well

Williams: i agree i agree definitely

Skridulis: one more question i have for you sir as you've stated that enlisted development is is on your list of priorities it's one of the goals that you have as the command chief has there been any specific event in your life or was there any any moment that really prompted that to take a forefront in your priorities

Williams: yes you know after i went in residence to the nco academy at Mcghee Tyson and doing my attendance there at Mcghee Tyson i did very well going through the nco academy and and that right there was a motivational period in my life where i focused in more on education and began to develop myself a lot more based on my experience at the ncaa academy at Mcghee Tyson so that was the kind of turning point at that at that time and also once i made make the rank of chief master sergeant having an opportunity of more developmental courses to go to i attended as many as i could in as a chief and and currently as a command chief when i became a command chief back in 2010 that provided the opportunity for me so i took advantage of those opportunities to help like i say continue to develop myself because i felt more even at that point i felt more pressure on myself to keep myself educated and motivated to be able to impart that on other individuals that i will lead so i want to take in as much any education as possible because i believe that education the great equalizer to make us better individuals and i want to be able to do that so i can be successful in leading people

Skridulis: definitely it's it's great then that you went ahead and you made those extra courses for like you said those master sergeants and senior master sergeants so that they can start taking advantage of that like before you were able to as a chief

Williams: that's correct that's correct we need to do things better better than we did them before and change the dynamics to start developing people at an early age and provide them the opportunities to be empowered and bring up those great ideas and to help provide that security for our nation

Skridulis: awesome

Sullivan: hey chief i just had one last question for you i wanted to just ask you what would be one fun fact about Command Chief Williams that that we don't know about that would be fun for the enlisted to know about one one good fun fact

Williams: one good fun fact let me see here well i went down to the fitness center i went down to find the fitness center at the Pentagon and once I found the fitness center i couldn’t find my way out of it

Sullivan: we’ve all been there chief we’ve all been there chief I just wanted to wrap up by thanking you for your time and for sharing some wisdom for our enlisted force here on our podcast we really look forward to seeing you in our wing and look forward to hosting your visit for you and team 13

Skridulis: and I did also want to ask Command Chief is there anything you wanted to add before we finish up

Williams: i just want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be on the podcast today to share my thoughts and to share my opinions on the questions you asked to give people a better insight on how i’m thinking and what my perspectives are i think it's just a great opportunity and i think it's a great thing that you’re doing with your podcast to get out and put your message out there in the airwaves to everyone that will listen in and educate the airmen within your aors it's a great thing that you're doing and i applaud you for what you're doing so thanks thanks again for giving me this opportunity and what you're doing for our enlisted force in our entire organization

Skridulis: thank you so much sir it was a pleasure meeting you getting to talk to you like this and thank you everybody for listening chief sully

Sullivan: thank you again and thanks for all of our listeners and air warriors have a great air force day