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14th AF command chief visits ALS class, speaks at graduation

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Chief Master Sgt. James MacKinley, 14th Air Force command chief master sergeant, speaks to the graduating class of the Buckley Airman Leadership School Aug. 10. ALS is designed to provide senior airmen with the leadership skills needed to be supervisors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Paul Labbe.)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Chief Master Sgt. James MacKinley, 14th Air Force command chief master sergeant, speaks to the graduating class of the Buckley Airman Leadership School Aug. 10. ALS is designed to provide senior airmen with the leadership skills needed to be supervisors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Paul Labbe.)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Chief Master Sgt. James MacKinley, 14th Air Force command chief, is facing high year of tenure next year and he's ok with that.

The numbered Air Force senior enlisted leader said, after visiting with Buckley's Airman Leadership School class Aug. 10, he came away thoroughly impressed.

"There's no doubt in my mind I am leaving this Air Force in the right hands - speaking of senior leadership and the leadership that will replace them," said Chief MacKinley. "This group of young Airmen are going to make great leaders. They're multi-taskable, they get it and there's no doubt in my mind they're going to do a great job."

Chief MacKinley was particularly impressed when, during the question and answer session, the Airmen focused solely on relevant, strategic-level topics.

"Their questions and the things we talked about in the time that I had them today were about strategic-level issues, which impressed me because most young people don't think strategic," he said. "They usually ask questions regarding every day issues, like housing, child care, etc. This particular class did not commiserate at all. This group talked about strategic-level things - to include goals for the future of space, as an enterprise."

Chief MacKinley talked about the importance of professional military education, such as ALS, as well as deliberate mentorship of Airmen.

"It's absolutely paramount that we continue to put our money where our mouth is and continue to deliberately develop these Airmen with these professional military education opportunities," he said. "Think about it, we should be proud of our Air Force. We are at war right now and in spite of the fact that we are at war, we are pulling people out of their office and we are deliberately mentoring them to be better so they can be better at their job, be better leaders so they can accomplish their mission."

Chief MacKinley said if an Airman at any level wanted to rise to lead as he has, the best advice he could give is to be great at the level the Airman is at now.

"Start being a command chief by being a great senior airman - or being a great whatever rank you are right now," he said. "If you're an airman 1st class and you want to be a command chief, be a great airman 1st class. Always be on that leading edge. Always understand that standards are there for a reason and you start being a chief by being a great Airman. You take your job seriously. You take your training seriously. You become that whole person and then as you move into supervision, you develop Airmen in that same way. You start developing your replacement and then you become a great NCO by doing the same things. You just do the best you can at the job you're in and eventually it will all come to a head and you will be a chief. Some of them might become colonels, but the bottom line is it's great to have a vision of tomorrow, but you get there by doing great today."

"Great" is the perfect word to express Chief MacKinley's opinion of Airmen in this class and around the Air Force.

"I am amazed with our Airmen in today's Air Force," said the Chief. "They know nothing but long hours of work. The fact that our Airmen joined today's Air Force, a profession of arms, during a time of war says a lot about who they are. As I face and start planning for the end of my Air Force career next year, I am proud to know that I have helped develop my replacements and I know that when those Airmen have their time to lead, they're going to do a great job."

Chief MacKinley said speaking to an ALS class is a chance for Airmen to communicate directly with leadership. He said he also gets a lot out of the opportunity.

"I get the opportunity to hear directly from the Airmen and hear directly what their ideas are and their thoughts are without it being changed as someone communicates it for them," he said.

Chief MacKinley served as the guest speaker for the classes' graduation ceremony that night.

He said after the Airman return to their individual units, they need to be trusted, challenged and given the opportunity to succeed without micromanagement. What then?

"Watch out," said Chief MacKinley. "They're gonna make you shine."
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