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 002 - Resilience of the enlisted force

  • 102nd Intelligence Wing
  • July 2, 2021 | 29:40

Chief Master Sgt. James Traficante, Command Chief of the 103rd Airlift Wing, Bradley Air National Guard Base in East Granby, Connecticut, and Airman 1st Class Joseph Chaves of the 102nd Communications Flight, shared valuable insight across the spectrum of the enlisted force on the subject of resilience, including how it has impacted their lives and careers, as well as some tips and encouragement!


Traficante: when you get someone else's hey you know go talk to that chief who's done it already probably you know went through the same thing and obviously you can see he made it through or she made it through

Chaves: 100 percent yeah

Traficante: and so can you obviously you know life throws those things at you and you can you know obviously you'll get through it that's where the resilience comes in you're gonna power through and you're gonna come back better

Sullivan: hello air warriors i am Chief Master Sergeant Sean Sullivan and welcome to another chevrons a podcast for the enlisted force i am here with my co-host

Skridulis: airman Francesca Skridulis and we have a couple of special guests today we have Chief Master Sergeant James Traficante the state Command Chief Master Sergeant for the Connecticut Air National Guard

Sullivan: and also joining us is A1C Joseph Chaves of the 102nd Communications Flight gentlemen thank you for attending this chevron's podcast today i just want to start right off by Chief can you tell us a little about yourself your experiences and what you're doing for the Air National Guard now

Traficante: hello everybody and obviously i want to say thank you for inviting me on it's a great pleasure for me i've never done a podcast before so this is a first and i'm honored i'm honored to be asked about me i am the wing Command Chief at the 103rd Air Wing in Connecticut Connecticut's a single wing state we have a couple gsu's but the the main ear wing is at Bradley International at the at the airport my my history is basically joined the military right out of high school didn't have a whole lot of direction in high school so i kind of like many many youngsters when i was that age in that time i went to the military so i'm on active duty active duty Air Force i did four years there and then basically said hey you know what i'd like to kind of move on with life so you know i got out but funny story back then and Chief you probably remember this when i used to call it cbpo walking down the hall doing my out processing and the in-service guard recruiters standing in his doorway and he looking at me and he says you're getting out and i said yeah he said how about joining the guard i said okay tell me about it and that's how i went i went palace front which is basically you did your four-year commitment or six-year commitment whatever it is and you go direct into the guard so i went into the guard in Rhode Island and i was a crew chief there at active duty i was a crew chief as well so i was a crew chief on c130s i did that for several years and then cross trained over to be a flight engineer in c130s i did that for about 20 years as a dsg and basically my civilian career i became a firefighter in Providence so i was kind of the dual headed thing so i kind of understand what the dsgs go through as opposed to the full timers so i did that we changed their frames from h models to j model so i cross trained again to be a loadmaster and then at a conference one day i was asked hey you know what i think you'd be a great fit for the functional manager job at the time i was still a dsg still a firefighter and i applied i said you know why not give it a try i applied for the job came down to Andrews did the interview and i was hired as a functional manager so i retired as a firefighter i came out as an agr basically i was a functional manager at Andrews for a couple years and then positioned open up at Scott to be the enlisted aircrew liaison to air mobility command so i went out did that for three years and then pcs back to Connecticut as they were starting up a brand new unit for c-130s because they had they had been bracked and went through several mission changes and they were finally going to land with c-130s so one came back to Connecticut i was the load master superintendent started up the unit got them through their first deployment and then the command positions open applied for that and i got that and brings me to right here right now i've been a commander for about three years now

Sullivan: wow that's that that's quite an adventure in a pretty robust history and then Airman Chaves you have to follow that up okay so how are you going to trump that as far as a career so far why don't you tell us about yourself what do you do here at the wing and and what brought you into the military

Chaves: well hi i'm Airman Chaves and i am definitely a proud member of the 102nd Communications Flight and right now i have been backfilling for client systems i've been doing tech support answering phone calls fixing machines i'm on the phone with Hewlett Packard a lot and we do a lot with no com i don't think there's much much mission going forward so it's i definitely have a great sense of fulfillment and how i'm helping out that's very clear as of right now

Skridulis: i couldn't agree more with that the number of times i've needed comm oh my goodness

Sullivan: yeah great com is like great umpires you don't know that they're there everything just runs smoothly so right yes so so great on our topic of the day we wanted to talk a little bit about resilience and the really this is now a time that we've just gone through the last 18 months where resilience is is of the utmost importance we've this country has been struggling through a lot of different things and it the really nice thing here is that we're going to have an introspective on resilience and what it means on both ends of the spectrum you know somebody that's more you know at the beginning of their career and how it's affected us and somebody who's more well like myself at close to the twilight of the career so Chief i wanna start with you what are your thoughts on on resilience and what has it meant to you in your military career and and you know any events where you know skills that you may have learned have have benefited you in overcoming something

Traficante: resiliency is for obvious reasons which we'll probably get into a little bit later in the next question super important to me basically i look at things as hey life throws you curveballs on a regular basis things just don't go your way all the time as much as you'd like them to go your way you know everybody wants that job they apply for everybody wants you know the best of this and the best of that and then there's those outside factors which you really have no control of whatsoever that kind of throw your curveballs and and kind of put a lot of stress on you in life so resiliency super important and obviously it's the ability to recover from you know as for adverse actions and and just bad things happening to good people it happens no matter what whether it's a car accident you know numerous things you you can have example after example but it's your ability to overcome and and continue on and basically repair yourself and to come back a bigger better person that's what it's really part of and it's it's as i tell my kids i said adult life is really difficult i said i know you're you're having you know your whole world is high school here and you think the world revolves around the 10th grade i should but it gets really difficult when you graduate and you go on and be a big adult person and and that's when you're kind of on your own and you have to make your own decisions and so on and so forth so you need to learn and be resilient and be able to adapt to these difficult things and it's mentally and physically i think physically kind of builds off your mental you know the stronger you are physically and i'm not saying the big bodybuilder kind of thing but just kind of eat right exercise you know keep yourself in good shape keep yourself healthy it definitely improves on on your mental resilience and your mental health as well so yes like i said i'll follow on more on the next question but super important it's a must-have

Skridulis: yeah definitely i'm going to turn over to Chaves here what is resilience for you with your military career here

Chaves: oh boy resilience you know just even getting to the point where i am being in the military in the Air National Guard i needed a lot of resilience so it's a it was a dream of mine to really be in the military you know initially thinking the Marines and the Navy i got turned down right out of high school and just kind of had to figure it out i learned a lot of lessons you know i'm 25 now and just got into the guard i got to be sworn in on june 11 2019 and here i am and i'm just raring to go and really learn and grow in every way possible and just being a member of the guard you really have to put your best foot forward anyways to really be here so i'm i'm pushing hard and the thing about it though about resilience is it's not something that you really just have alone if it wasn't for the wing and you know my commander and my chief and my ncos just around me they were pushing for me while i was even enlisting while i was at basic and tech school always there for me they knew i wanted to be a part of the wing and because i was going to go active duty the win gave me the job i wanted and just having that support system around me you know egging me on it's this really nice just reciprocal system where we egg each other on we push each other to greater heights it's it's nice because as a flight you know we aim high and we we set the standard i really do believe that and we push hard you know we fight hard we play hard and it's like a big family and that really that really helps me just be who i am and also we learn and grow together we we all we all learn and and i think that's at least where i'm at right now with resilience

Sullivan: that's why i love having this intersective of of having you know people at both ends of their career talking about the same topic and seeing the same tools are being exercised and utilized on you know you know for for both ends how important this is across your military career and how you're always part of a of a collective body that can help you along so that this is this is exciting to hear i i enjoy this

Traficante: Chief if i can't just to follow up on that it's definitely not a go alone kind of thing you definitely have to build a network of people that you lean on and that will lean on you and obviously your network will change as you you know progress through your career progress through life but it's vitally important to have that because that's what makes you strong you can't do it alone and if you can you know i can't say this definitively but most of the time you fail you you need to rely on one another you know get that outside input you know get a different perspective eventually you know i'm not sure if you're married with children or not but eventually you know lean on your wife obviously you guys are a team you know in in that type of thing it's vitally important get some you know senior ncos and and even peers and get their opinions and and kind of bounce ideas off of each other that is such a huge you know input for you to kind of it makes you feel better when you get someone else's hey you know go talk to that chief who's done it already probably you know went through the same thing and obviously you can see he made it through or she made it through

Chaves: 100 percent

Traficante: yeah and and so can you obviously you know life throws those things at you and and you can you know obviously you'll get through it that's where the resilience comes in you're going to power through and you're going to come back better

Sullivan: and Chief that that brings up an interesting question on your perspective is is there anything that you're struggling with now or any events that that you've been dealing with over this pandemic that's testing your resiliency and how are you overcoming it

Traficante: absolutely like everybody i mean i humans are social beings i like being around people we all like being around people you know we we may not admit it from time to time that we like other people but we we do we crave that interaction and with the pandemic it was your your sphere or your circle of interaction was greatly reduced so it was that much more difficult for us you know i went through it you know i ended up spending more time a lot more time with my wife and in my youngest daughter you know we went out we we did hikes where before we're kind of an outdoor family but nothing like we were now we really i mean we we did a lot of fishing together we went hiking together we did all kinds of outdoor activities kayaking so we actually built that part of our relationship because i didn't have my sphere of friends which you know they were still around and we still talked on the phone but we didn't have that social interaction together which is really important so yeah and that's kind of how we got through that and now that it's opening up you know we're all craving it you know i i love going out and seeing them and you know having a few beers with them and just kind of you know being around them it makes it so much more positive you feel so much better but yeah i mean that's how we got through it

Skridulis: and i would ask to Chaves i mean similarly i mean we're all going through the pandemic similarly to Chief Traficante there you know how are you getting through all of these struggles right now

Chaves: well honestly if it wasn't for the Air Force i wouldn't have had such a great time at it really because when the pandemic kicked off i was at basic training march 10th and i was there through it i got to see i got to see how an organization as large as the United States Air Force overcomes something like a worldwide pandemic and i was a part of that and we adapted and we overcame together and a lot of people back home said wow this is this is the worst time for Joe to be away and when i got back i very kindly corrected them i said no this was the best time to be away i could not have been in a better environment at basic training with my mtis with my flight the brotherhood that you know that we that we have even still i still talk to a lot of the guys and you know people crying the night that guys that you would not think would be crying were crying the night that we left and then i got to go to tech school in Mississippi Kiesler's an awesome base the 336 training squadron what an amazing team i got to be part of there and go through my cyber surety training it really helped out a lot having a team exactly what Chief was saying and having those people around you my wife back home even my my supervisor who i barely even talked to except for drill weekends was calling me on the regular seeing how i was doing anything that i needed reassuring that there was a place for me here at the 102nd when i got back it was huge it's huge having people people pushing you that's awesome

Sullivan: yeah hey Chief i got a question for you how has the worth of staying in the military change for you over the years i mean i understand you ended up in the guard you know basically pretty much the same way that i ended up in the guard you kind of got captured on your way out of active duty and somebody explained the guard you were like i don't know what that is and the next thing you know it's you you're blinking it's 30 years later but but how is the worth of changing in the military staying changed for you over the years as you progressed

Traficante: oh it's it's changed you know and i tell airmen all the time that come into my office the air force i joined 30 years ago is definitely not the air force today in you know my personal opinions we've obviously we've changed for the better in many different areas in other opinion you know other areas i don't think so but that just could be because you know i'm i'm the old dinosaur kind of thing but obviously the diversity inclusion thing has been huge and when i say that it's not about race it's just about like i try to explain to some of my younger airmen it's like it when i say diversity and inclusion it's like just somebody who doesn't think like you somebody who gives you a different perspective somebody who can say hey you know here's this problem here's my solution but this other person who thinks entirely different than you has a different solution that's like oh wow i didn't even think of that because it's just a different perspective everybody has their own thoughts and and how they tackle things that's huge that's that's improved us you know leaps and bounds obviously technology you know has has improved us is greatly you know we don't type forms up anymore everything's done on the computer you know just just numerous things that's been a challenge to me it's not that i'm technologically challenged but that's not how i grew up i always grew up with the big thick books and all of that stuff so that's something that i've had to overcome you know when i go flying like what i used to have six books i used to carry in a big bag is now on an ipad and i had to get better at navigating that ipad in order to use that you know but that was you know that was a challenge on me which you know i work at it every day i get better at technology every day and the more i use it the you know the better at it i get but those are just some of the things but it is it is different and like i said it's exciting to see you know i'm looking at the future and i'm kind of sad because i'm coming to the end of my career and i look at what the future's bringing i'm like wow you know i wish i was going to be around for that because that's pretty cool but you know it it's ever improving ever always getting better

Sullivan: oh it is and i understand what you're saying about technology i started off as a Marine and you know we communicated by banging rocks together and talking in grunts and here i am in in a wing with two diverse ISRG missions and i'm surrounded by all this young fantastic talent and i i feel the same way i would change careers right now with either one of these young airmen that are sitting here with me and it's just the future is just so bright for them so Airman Chaves what's something that you're working on right now something that excites you you know a project that you're working on right now well i i have a lot of big plans i i'm a firm believer that one man can change the world i really do believe that and my next thing that i want to be doing is i'm planning to make full use of my tuition assistance here in Massachusetts and get my bachelor's in information technology and that's going to take me because no matter which way i go either civilian sector and cyber security or get to stay in and possibly commission and become an officer it's schooling is very important so that's in my personal life that's probably the next big thing i'm doing i am married to Chief's previous question and kids eventually and that's a big thing that the Air Force is really helping me out i have very stable because of the Air Force you know steady income health care that's a big thing and so schooling that's something that i can i can move on to and i get to be put on title 10 orders this fall and be a be a part of that and that's gonna that's gonna give me my gi bill and now i can i can get my wife to go to school i can have my kids go to school and that that's huge not having this big financial burden to allow me to better myself and my family so that i can be a better servant my community you know it's i'm a servant in my church you know i believe it's god family country and because of the Air Force i have the foundation to serve in my church to serve my family and serve my country my favorite quote by JFK is it's not what your country can do for you it's what you can do for your country and that is so important and that's that's why i do want to go to school and possibly do want a commission one day because i want to lead the way i really do and you cannot lead if you weren't first at the bottom i have such leverage because i can tell a story basic training that i was the one cleaning the toilets because it doesn't matter how high i go up in this country i know that i started at the bottom and i'm proud to say that that i scrubbed our nation's toilets and who knows or that's where that's going to go

Sullivan: wow that's the attitude we need well said

Skridulis: yeah and Chief Traficante are you working on any big projects right now

Traficante: pretty much with the with the wing commander we are we're trying to improve our enlisted promotion system we're trying to get away from that old guard paradigm to where you know you know he's a good guy a girl and he's been here long enough and let's promote him and we're trying to really get you know the change the culture and the way of thinking to hey it's a merit-based promotion system unlike active duty where we don't test and we don't you know we don't have any of those board scores or any of that stuff you know the guard predominantly has based it on time which obviously time is is critical because time means experience which is a great thing you can never take experience away from anybody and it's a great learning tool but there's a lot more behind it besides that you know and i found when i get in you know people sitting in the same ranks for 20 plus years and it's like okay what's going on why have you not moved on you know where you know is there a problem you know with with force management within your unit or within that squadron so we're kind of taking that on now which is a huge undertaking because it's a cultural change and whenever you change culture it takes forever at least it seems forever to me anyway but so we're slowly turning the ship getting it in the right direction and getting the way of thinking hey just because you've been here 20 years doesn't mean you should be a senior or chief or you know some people just you know it's a top one and two percent not everybody's cut out for it and you shouldn't be there so you know we're looking at different ways and trying to design different promotional you know paths for people which has been pretty challenging

Sullivan: that's there's a lot of that going across the spectrum Chief and and accelerate change or lose is one of my favorite favorite catchphrases now and and it is a time for us as an Air National Guard to accelerate our change and to break the wheel and to empower and to create better airmen across the spectrum hey Chief getting ready to wrap it up do you have any final thoughts of wisdom or anything you'd like to share with our listeners wow that was quick final thoughts

Traficante: yeah i would say thank you again for inviting me it was it was a pleasure i i really enjoyed it you know i always jump at a chance to talk to airmen and and kind of pass my story along because you know i feel like i got some experience and i do have some things i can pass along with people final thoughts i would say learn from your mistakes you're to make them they they just that's in another yeah it's inevitable in life sorry about that so learn from them don't let them you know you're gonna get knocked down so get up brush yourself off and obviously that's part of that resiliency thing to a hair you know what what did i do wrong or what went wrong you know where in my decision-making process that you know it'd allow me to fail find that improve upon that and move on you know that that's just part of life you don't always get get dealt the four aces you know when you're playing poker so basically learn from it and be proactive don't set yourself up for failure you know it's it's gonna happen on its own but hey do your best if you're going for a particular position and you know it requires x y and z then go out and be proactive and do x y and z go out there you know in and work hard you know like i tell a lot of my airmen nothing is owed to you you have to go get it you have to work for it it's all you know it's it's available to you but it's it's available to those people who work for and strive to get it but it is available the system works you know i say all the time the system works look at me so i said i would have never thought i'd be where i am today you know if you asked me 15 years ago you know i was probably looking at you know maybe i'm going to get out maybe i'm going to stay i don't know didn't know i was going to be the command chief but the big thing is work on your resiliency stay with it it's an ongoing process it's a lifelong process build a good network because you're gonna rely on them they're vitally important to your mental and physical health and just go out and be the best person you can be that's important that means a lot

Skridulis: yeah and a lot of what you're just saying Chief is the foundation for getting yourself on the road to to building good resilience i think and Chaves any last thoughts for us here

Chaves: well i definitely want to echo what Chief said and how honored i am to be here this is absolutely amazing and i really appreciate everyone asking me to be here and i'm just i'm just really really happy to be part of something like this and to just close up with resiliency and i really appreciate that you said you're not always dealt aces something i've always said is you got to play the the hand that you're dealt you know i i say to my friends sometimes play your strengths make your weaknesses stronger he's so Chief you're so right about growing and not being afraid to learn you know it doesn't matter how many times we fall we just have to get up again and with with a great organization like the United States Air Force that we're part of we have a family it's it's not just the military this is a family we're all here every single one of you i know has my six you are all my my wingmen and wing women and it is just amazing that i that i have that because one thing i know that the air force is at the front of is we are not stagnant we are definitely changing you don't drink still water it's dead and the air force is a raging sea of change and of amazing people i've talked to so many people that are different viewpoints than me and i have different viewpoints than them yet we still get the mission done and i believe the Air Force can teach even the civilian world other branches not only in our own nation but in the rest of the world on how to work together even with different viewpoints because you know what we have something above every single one of us is we have that great red white and blue that's above flying high above us all and if we can just get together and just say salute to our country because this is a country of change this is a country of freedom and we can all have that pursuit to live our best lives as Americans

Sullivan: well said thank you thank you Chief and just just to capitalize on that i know from personally for myself i have never learned anything about myself from an easy victory it has only been the resilience that i developed through a defeat and the character traits that came along the way that have you know led to the evolutionary process of getting to where we're at now so it's glad to hear that from both perspectives Chief i want to thank you for being part of this episode Airman Chaves thank you for being part of this episode i there's there's a lot of value here for our listeners and thank you for for your time on this appreciate you both

Skridulis: yeah i'm gonna thank you everybody please stay tuned for our next episode we're glad you're here with us now and we look forward to having you here again

Sullivan: and this will be chevrons signing out we are the voice of the enlisted force and your professional development have a great air force day