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New command chief: Everything rises or falls on leadership

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Every leader has goals; and while the new 460th Space Wing command chief master sergeant has plenty of goals, he also has a calling.

"It is my calling, my mission in life - for the remainder of my service in the Air Force, to eradicate our Air Force of one-dimensional Airmen," Chief Master Sgt. Robert Ellis. "We need our Airmen to do more than just one thing. And do more than one thing well."

Chief Ellis' calling comes from his passion for the growth and development of all Airmen and ensuring they are set up for success. He also pointed out the need for Airmen to be ready to lead in joint environments when members of others services are looking to Airmen and NCOs to lead them. He said, in many cases they just want to know, "Are you going to get us through this next mission alive?"

"My number one focus is that we give our Airmen every opportunity available to grow and develop. The growth and development needs to be more than just within their Air Force Specialty," he said. "For example, when you look at joint expeditionary taskings, we're taking Airmen outside of things that were traditionally done, things that we've been traditionally trained to do and we're asking them to go out and be successful. And guess what, our Airmen have been doing that, but I think we can do a better job setting them up for success. We need to put more focus on deliberate leadership and professional development."

"It equates to about 19 weeks and one day from the time we take an Airman to chief master sergeant when you complete your ALS, NCO Academy, Senior NCO Academy and Chief Leadership Course," he said. "When you consider those 19 weeks are spread over a 20+ year career, it makes sense to include more developmental opportunities locally to fill in those gaps."

Chief Ellis said involvement in private and professional organizations also foster leadership development.

"It helps you learn to work on your people skills and it really helps you learn to pull together as a team," said Chief Ellis. "So, a lot of abilities come from being involved in these organizations and every Airman needs to be involved in some capacity."

Regarding performance reports, he said supervisors need to be involved in making performance reports reflect what they should; people need to call it like they see it because there is no mandate or form that will make things right.

"Too often people complain about the inflated EPR system," said Chief Ellis. "Who over-inflates EPRs? The ones writing the reports - supervisors. I challenge every Airman, every supervisor, every leader to challenge their Airmen to reach their maximum potential. And the only way we will reach our maximum potential is if there are leaders who will hold people accountable while inspiring and motivating them to be better tomorrow than they are today."

Chief Ellis said high expectations result in high return.

"I expect the standards to be high," he said. "I expect the bar to be raised because I realize that the more we challenge our people, the more our people can accomplish and the better they can become. If you allow a person to operate solely in their comfort zone, they will only give you what's comfortable for them. But, we don't want people comfortable; we want to stretch them so they grow."

Chief Ellis looks to his past to shed light on what he sees as a brighter future for the Air Force.

Chief Ellis said he appreciates it every time he sees Airmen constantly evolving and looking for opportunities, whether it be pursuing a new job, pursuing education, or involvement in the community, etc.

"That's how you broaden, and that's how we develop our next enlisted leaders. Not just by being stove piped in your Air Force Specialty, but stepping out into other," said Chief Ellis.

Education is another thing Chief Ellis is passionate about, and expects Airmen here to strive for.

"There's a reason the Air Force will pay for up to a master's degree for an enlisted airman and I think it's a great opportunity for each Airman to challenge themselves to be the absolute best and to continue to grow and challenge themselves educationally," said Chief Ellis.

Chief Ellis is also adamant about professionalism.

"Unprofessionalism detracts from who we are as a service," said Chief Ellis. "I expect every Airman to be professional and being a professional stars with wearing the uniform sharply, arriving early for work, appointments, and meetings. Attitudes must be positive and professional. We address people with, 'Yes Ma'am, No Ma'am, Yes Sir, No Sir.' We stand when someone that out ranks us addresses us or enters into our work space. We provide the absolute best level of customer of service that we can to every person that we encounter - regardless of what they have on their sleeve or what they have on their collar. These are all the basics. And I'll tell you, when we hold people accountable to the basics; we get things done right and professionally."

Even though Chief Ellis recently took over as command chief, he has a clear set of goals he wants to attain before he ends his tenure here.

"My desire is that the Airmen at Buckley will be the most educated, the fittest, the best cared for, the most mission-focused, the most successful and recognized Airmen in Air Force Space Command," said Chief Ellis. "When you tie all those together -you have the most ready force that can be reckoned with."

Chief Ellis said that in the end, everything rises and falls on leadership.

"We win or we lose based on leadership," he said. "Leadership at its core is about influence and that influence allows us to be a compelling force on the actions, attitudes and behaviors of others. And we need every Airman at every level to realize they are leaders and they have influence - they have that ability to make change happen for the better here at Team Buckley starting with their sphere of influence, starting with their work center. And if every Airman does that - utilizes their influence for good, I think we'll be in good shape."
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