Getting top performing Airmen promoted sooner, changing the enlisted performance report system, streamlining the enlisted and officer professional education programs and developing a roadmap for the Air Force for the next three decades were some of the topics discussed Feb. 20 by the Air Force’s top officer during the 30th annual Air Force Association Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III spoke to an audience of Airmen, members of industry and AFA, providing an update on Air Force issues that ranged from fiscal realities over the upcoming decades to come to aircraft and equipment modernization to issues affecting Airmen today and in the future.
Welsh spoke to Airmen directly about several myths and misconceptions floating throughout the Air Force on the issue of education requirements, both private and professional. He emphasized that having a Community College of the Air Force degree will still be a requirement, but the requirement for bachelor’s degrees and higher will be revised in the years ahead.
Electronic cigarette use is becoming a popular alternative to traditional cigarettes, but the upward trend is becoming a concern for Air Force health care providers.
The battery-operated products, known as e-cigarettes, are designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals as a vapor that is inhaled by the user. According to data from the 2011 Department of Defense Survey of Health Related Behaviors, e-cigarettes have been tried by 5 percent of Airmen, and 2.2 percent of Airmen have used e-cigarettes in the past year.
“Airmen are using e-cigarettes at a level comparable to the civilian adult population,” said Col. (Dr.) John Oh, the chief of health promotion at the Air Force Medical Support Agency, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But e-cigarettes use is rapidly growing among youths and has been used by 10 percent of high school students.”
While e-cigarettes have been advertised as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes, studies have found potentially harmful ingredients are contained in the product, including nitrosamines, diethylene glycol and animal carcinogens. Oh cautioned Airmen against using e-cigarettes as a substitute for smoking.
Now in its eighth year of partnership with America Saves Week, the Defense Department’s Military Saves Week began Monday to help service members achieve financial security, flexibility and confidence, a Pentagon official said in a telephone news conference.
The partnership initiatives continue to gain ground, with nearly 159,000 military members and their families taking the Military Saves pledge since 2007, said Barbara Thompson, the director of the DOD’s office of family policy and children and youth.
“Military Saves Week is our chance to focus on healthy financial practices that we know are important every day of the year,” Thompson said.
The DOD has a range of tools and services including personal financial management counselors to help service members and their families set a goal, make a plan and save automatically, Thompson said.
An officer started her career as an enlisted Airman but thanks to a commissioning program, is now a second lieutenant, serving in the Academy admissions office where she counsels possible future officers.
More than six years ago, Airman Lelia Abdulrazaq realized during a combat dining-in that she wanted to become an officer.
The then-enlisted supply technician approached a lieutenant in her squadron to ask about commissioning options and was soon introduced to the Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program, which offers about 170 appointments to the academy and the Academy Prep School each year. Abdulrazaq never looked back.
The LEAD program was created in 1995 to give commanders the chance to nominate qualified Airmen to attend the academy or prep school.
However, Abdulrazaq’s Air Force story didn’t begin with her commissioning. It began in 2005 when she moved from Nigeria to the U.S. and attended college. After receiving her first college bill, she said she knew something had to change and decided to enlist.
Her recruiter stressed the benefits the Air Force offers and Abdulrazaq was sold. Abdulrazaq’s first assignment was at Travis Air Force Base, Calif.
Later after determining her eligibility for the LEAD program, she waded through the necessary paperwork and applied.