Top enlisted personnel visit Connecticut National Guard, discuss top issues

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
  • 103rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
The relentless rain of the past few weeks took a hiatus just in time for Bradley Air National Guard Base to host a visit for the Office of Secretary of Defense-Reserve Affair's senior enlisted advisory council Oct. 5, 2011. The visit, which included a tour of the base and a town-hall meeting, was part of the senior enlisted leadership council's quarterly meeting where a region is selected to convene and discuss enlisted issues--tough issues.

Issues like enlisted grade review and disappearing benefits for new Airmen. But before the team got around to that, they took a look around Bradley to observe the hard-working Flying Yankees.

Upon landing, the team was greeted with solid handshakes and smiling faces, a warm reception opposite the chilly wind blowing through Bradley. The team consisted of: Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Gipe, senior enlisted advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense Reserve Affairs; Chief Master Sgt. Dale Badgett, command chief for the Air Force Reserve Command; Chief Master Sgt. Denise M. Jelinski-Hall, senior enlisted leader to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau; Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Reserve Force Mark H. Allen; Sgt. Maj. John Edwards representing Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Burch, 9th command sergeant major, Army National Guard, and Sergeant Major James Booker, command sergeant major of the Marine Corps Reserve.

The first stop of the visit was a welcome brief given by Col. Frank Detorie, commander of the 103rd Airlift Wing. From there, the team was shown the new Air and Space Operations Group and Centralized Repair Facility (CRF) buildings. During the tour, the Connecticut Air Guard's enlisted force was highlighted as the topic of discussion. In fact, Staff Sgt. Corinna Kalisz, targeteer for the 103d AOG, was even coined by the team for her efforts supporting the Combined Air Operations Center in theater. Additionally, Tech. Sgt. Steven Sevigny lead the group through the CRF where troops there were recognized for repairing their 100th TF-34 engine, and stopped repairs just long enough to get a group photo with the enlisted council.

For their last stop, the team was off to the enlisted town-hall meeting.

"That's what we're all about, working enlisted issues," said Gipe as he addressed members of the enlisted force here. After each of the top enlisted introduced themselves, the meeting led way to answering questions and concerns from Airmen in the crowd.

Master Sgt. David Miller, training manager from the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, got the ball rolling with a question about the enlisted grade review process. This process selectively downgraded enlisted positions throughout the Air National Guard.

"Here is what I am going to tell you about enlisted grade review. It is tough; there is no doubt about it. And if I was sitting in one of those spots that lost rank I'd be feeling the pain right along with you," said Jelinksy-Hall.

"The Air National Guard, we did it to ourselves. We over-inflated and we promoted people we shouldn't have promoted and we got out of balance," she said.

According to Jelinksy-Hall, the cost of what the Air Guard had to pay to maintain the current pay grades would have amounted to the entire budget to operate a wing. Additionally, even after the enlisted grade-review process, the Air National Guard is still not close to where it needs to be financially and the numbers are still inflated, said Jelinsky-Hall.

It was Senior Master Sgt. Rick Sherman, first sergeant for the 103rd Airlift Wing, who asked the next tough question.

"How can we, as Airmen, prevent our benefits from changing and disappearing," asked Sherman?

The short answer, the benefits we were promised upon our enlistments will not change, said Jelinksy-Hall. The new Airmen coming in will see a different benefits package however, one that could contrast a great deal to our current benefits line-up. "Stay focused on your mission. Be the best Airmen you can be; that's your everything you need to do to wear those stripes proudly and let the leadership figure out the rest of it," she said.

And equally as important, get involved.

According to Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, enlisted personnel are to support professional military organizations, Jelinsky-Hall said.

"These organizations, hopefully that you all belong to, that's your voice. That's your voice that speaks on the hill," she said.

Leaning on these professional military organizations, such as the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the National Guard Association of Connecticut or the Association of the United States Army will give Airmen the power to bring their
concerns to the steps of the Capitol.

And what good timing--just when everything in the military seemed to be following the mantra, 'do more with less,' these organizations are willing to fight for us, so we can keep our mind focused on the mission.

The next day, October 6, the council attended the annual Senior Non-commissioned Officer/Chief Petty Officer Formal Dining-in, now in its 30th year, held at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville. At this event, the question remained, what can the current Airmen do now to help the future of our enlisted?

"I need you to just understand who you are, gang," said dining-in guest speaker Chief Master Sgt. Christopher E. Muncy, tenth command chief master sergeant to the director of the Air National Guard Bureau. Muncy was referring to the fact that, of the 309 million people in the U.S., only 2.2 million serve--a ratio of 7/10 of one percent.

According to Muncy, we are few in number, easily dismissed by current events in the media and still an all-volunteer force--but we get the job done. Muncy illustrated this in an apologue that involved duct tape and the intimate apparels department in Wal-Mart.

"So, you and the general are standing on either side of this young volunteer, start at the shoulders and work your way all the way to their ankles with that roll [of duct tape]. And pretty soon all that is in front of you is a silver mummy not able to move the arms, legs, anything like that; pretty much less than one individual standing there. And that's when you look at the other 99 and you say, 'This is it. This is all we're allowed to have.'"

"This is all the American public and the U.S. Congress thinks you need to defend this nation," said Muncy.

But, that young servicemember is already thinking of a way to get the job done, continued Muncy. No matter what restrictions are placed on our Armed Forces, the servicemembers will find a way to get the job done.

Enlisted grade-review, disappearing benefits, understaffing, easily forgotten, less than one percent--all of these are tough issues, but nothing the U.S. Armed Forces cannot overcome.