The strength and impact of the NCO corps was the theme of the night as Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning was keynote speaker during the Air Force Sergeants Association Convention and Professional Airmen’s Conference banquet Aug. 28 in San Antonio, Texas.
Several guests of honor attended the annual event, including Gen. Phillip Breedlove, the commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Cody; and Cory Etchburger, the son of Chief Master Sgt. William Etchburger, who was recently posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor; and several former chief master sergeants of the Air Force.
Fanning spoke about the necessity of AFSA to help senior leaders understand the scope of their decisions on Airmen. As the former deputy under secretary of the Navy/deputy chief management officer, he expressed his excitement about being part of the Air Force and constantly learning about the complex global missions supported by Airmen every day.
“The Air Force offers something that no other service does,” Fanning said. “General Welsh talks about global reach, global power and global vigilance. To me that means, if you move, we will see you; if you hide, we will find you; and if you deserve it, we will punish you. We give the president the ability to hold targets at risk, all over the world, 24/7. No other service can do that.”
Before handing out the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force awards, Cody spoke about the accomplishments of each of the Airmen in attendance, conveying his thanks to them for carrying on the legacy of the Air Force and their resilience and dedication to duty.
“Airmen should know how inspiring the men and women—our Airmen—are to your Air Force leadership,” he said. “Your attributes, work ethic and commitment to service that each and every one of you display every day gives us without question, no matter what happens in the future, the confidence to know that we’re in the world’s greatest Air Force.”
In following with the AFSA tradition of recognizing outstanding military leaders, the EUCOM commander received the Excellence in Military Leadership Award for his outstanding commitment to improve the quality of life for the Air Force community at a strategic level during uncertain economic times.
In its 52nd year of operation, AFSA continues to represent the professional and personal interest of all Airmen and their families. To do this, AFSA leaders work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the White House to help pass legislation to benefit members of the armed forces, or to fight laws that may problematically affect them.
As the conference came to a close, Fanning praised the NCO corps on being the backbone of the military, stating “We are what we are as a military and an Air Force because of our NCO corps — we couldn’t do it without you.”
Looking forward to the force reduction stemming from sequestration, Fanning told attendees “there are great uncertainties … but there is one thing I do not doubt and that’s the (Air Force’s) NCO corps.”