On his first base visit as Air Education and Training Command’s newest enlisted leader, Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia spent his time visiting with Luke Airmen and talking about leadership.
One area Tapia said he’s ready to lead the way with is Comprehensive Airman Fitness. While he’s only been in his current job about a month, he said he wants to push forward with CAF in AETC because he saw in his last job in Air Combat Command that it really works.
Intended to create and sustain a community giving Airmen and their families balance and a sense of belonging, CAF’s objectives are to reduce self-defeating behaviors, enhance individual resilience and ultimately enhance community resilience.
Comprehensive Airman Fitness, modeled after the Army’s program of a similar name, features four domains — mental, physical, social and spiritual. It all boils down to building resiliency in our Airmen, Tapia said.
“The best way I’ve heard it explained was when former Air Force chief of chaplains, Col. Cecil Richardson was talking to a group of young Airmen,” he said. “He took a rubber band and stretched it out with both hands and said ‘This is crisis in our lives. We will always meet crisis in our lives. If you’re resilient, you’ll meet crisis like this (he removed his hands and the rubber band shrunk back to normal). If you’re not resilient, the crisis can cause you to break, just like this rubber band would with too much pressure.’”
“Our job, as leaders, is to help build resiliency in our Airmen,” he said.
The chief discussed the need for strong leaders in a critical place for the Air Force — basic military training.
Thus far, the Air Force has selected 179 NCOs to apply to be military training instructors.
“I understand there could be some hesitancy from some of these Airmen, but the Air Force is asking these individuals to do something that could be very special,” he said. “Those who were selected to apply were chosen because they’re seasoned in the Air Force and have life experience. We’ll give those selected the tools and skills to be training instructors and have an impact on people’s careers for the rest of their lives.”
Tapia said there’s a detailed and laborious process involved to select the right NCOs to even enter MTI training, but those selected need to have several characteristics.
“We need strong leaders, role models, people who have a moral compass, high standards; those who live the core values, are smart, energetic and are enthusiastic about being a solution to the problem,” he said. “Could they be hesitant? Yeah! But don’t be scared. This is a chance to help restore the trust and confidence in the Air Force.”
As the 28-year Air Force veteran toured Luke, he said he was consistently inspired by Airmen — his motivation.
“I’m excited to be an Airman in AETC,” he said. “I’m ready to be an advocate. For me, enlisted Airmen matter; their families matter; education and training matters. I’ve said it a thousand times and it was reinforced here — I don’t think we’ve seen our best days as Airmen yet, and that excites me!”