A chief's tale

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Amanda Callahan
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Although a lot of my day is taken up with additional duties, not unlike many NCOs in the wing, there are days that I get to do something really interesting. Monday was one of those days when I had the opportunity to interview the wing's command chief.

He seemed like a humble, but strong, chief, who gave credit where credit was due. My first impression of Chief Master Sgt. Jon Saiers didn't seem to be too far off the mark.

He told me about his civil engineering background. He started out as a pavements technician, which is now referred to as a heavy equipment operator, i.e. dirt boy. He's got a number of deployments under his belt, and some austere locations. Of course, as he went through the ranks, he held many superintendent positions at the squadron and group level.

As a former CE troop myself, I felt a connection with the chief. Of course, he's been in almost as long as I've been alive, so I don't compare our experiences. But, while I talked with Chief Saiers, I knew he was there to take care of us, the Airmen of the wing.

After he welcomed me in to his office, offered me some candy and asked where I wanted to sit, he started to tell me how humbled he was to even be in the position, and how surprised he was to see his name on the list in the first place. He admitted that most people expect for him to have a goal or an agenda, but, no, he doesn't; he just wants to grow in to the position and work hard for the enlisted force, as well as for the commander.

I felt like part of a team while I sat with Chief. I felt he wanted to make sure I told the wing how sincere his intentions are.

Of course, the interview went as most interviews do; I ask the questions, the interviewee gives me responses. Despite having already seen the questions, Chief Saiers didn't come across as rehearsed. He thought about his answers, but admitted that he doesn't really like to talk about himself.

"You don't do things for recognition," he told me later in the interview. "But, I really appreciate the chance I have to be the command chief and I really look forward to serving the wing."

Of course, seeing it in writing makes it seemed like a text-book Air Force answer, but his facial expressions told how much he meant it.

He discussed the upcoming changes for the Air Force. We all know the Air Force is adapting to become more streamlined. As Chief Saiers mentioned, though, this isn't the first time the Air Force has changed.

"We've been through change before," he remarked. "Airmen today just have to be patient."

The changes in the wing were also a topic of discussion, and with all the uncertainty, it's not an easy question for anyone to answer.

"We've got a lot going on with PBD 720 cuts, the BRAC initiative, UAS, the KC-X ... but there's a tremendous amount of value here. The base is well respected throughout the Air Force. I think there will be some type of mission here," he maintains.

I am always impressed by senior NCOs. Not simply because of where they are in the rank structure, but because of how they've managed to grow in to their own leadership style. Chief Saiers made a point about the leaders he's come in contact with throughout his career that made me look back at the past 10 years that I've worn this uniform.

He told me of how much he learned from his bad bosses.

"Don't get me wrong, I've had some really good military bosses and commanders, but I learned the most from the bad ones. I learned how I didn't want to be," he observed.

When he started to talk about his priorities, as an enlisted Airman, I started to feel as if I truly had a great trainer in my corner of the ring.

"I really honestly thought I could make a difference, otherwise I wouldn't have done it," he remarked. "That's how I've always been, if I didn't think I could help make something better, I didn't get involved."

And getting involved is what he does.

Although he admits that he doesn't get to visit the shops around base often enough, he does spend about 10 to 15 hours a week getting to know Airmen in their environment.

"It's the best way to find out what's really going on," he said. "It's the only way to find out what's really on our Airmen's minds. Information sometimes gets filtered or distorted while working its way up and down the chain of command."

As the interview came to a close, the chief reiterated his view of his new position.

"I just want to get a pulse of the wing and help the wing commander achieve the wing's goals and mission," he said.

I believe his executive assistant, Tech. Sgt. Chris Ellingson, put it best.

"Very simple, humble, intelligent, down to earth, common sense based and approachable...that's Chief Saiers in a nutshell."