Q&A: Center command chief discusses AFSC, says ‘it’s an honor serving beside you’

  • Published
  • By Richard W. Essary
  • 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Chief Master Sgt. Gary Sharp, Air Force Sustainment Center command chief, recently visited Hill Air Force Base during a ‘move the flag’ visit.

During the visit in early December, Sharp joined Lt. Gen. Gene Kirkland, AFSC commander, Kevin Stamey, AFSC executive director, and other sustainment center leadership to conduct headquarters business from on site at Hill AFB while making time to meet with the base’s military and civilian Airmen.

Having served for nearly 30 years, Sharp currently oversees 3,700 enlisted personnel spanning three air logistics complexes, three air base wings, two supply chain wings, and multiple remote operating locations. He is responsible for the combat readiness, effective utilization, professional development, health, morale, and welfare of all assigned enlisted personnel.

While at Hill AFB, he took time to discuss his career and role as the senior enlisted leader for AFSC.

Q: Talk to us a little about your background and why you chose the Air Force?
A: I’m from a very small river town in northeast Iowa and joined right out of high school at 17 years old. I had a lot of reckless energy and was drawn to the military. The Air Force was and still is considered the most cutting edge branch of service, and has the most to offer in terms of skills that would transfer into civilian employment. Now, 30 years later, the Air Force has given me everything I could have asked for from what was supposed to be a four-year enlistment.

Q: What are some of your experiences and lessons that have shaped your leadership style?
A: I was raised with a strong work ethic and it was impressed upon me early on that the Air Force required more than simply hard work if I wanted to be successful. As a result, I wasn’t necessarily the showcase Airman being put in for awards or recognition. I feel every one of our Airmen brings something to the fight and I want each of them to know they are a valuable member of our team. I don’t feel career success is marked by awards and stripes, but rather by our commitment to accomplish the mission and how we treat our people.

Q: How has your role as the AFSC command chief been unique from your previous assignments?
A: My two previous wing-level command chief jobs were in overseas fighter wings and it seemed like there was never enough time in the day. This job required me to take a step back and really look at what I could bring to the table. I’ve kept my focus on manpower utilization, connecting our Airmen with the AFSC mission, and promoting our military and civilian helping agencies. We’ve made a lot of headway, but need to continue keeping our foot on the gas.

Q: In your words, why are ‘move the flag’ visits important?
A: I know what it’s like to have your headquarters leadership in your backyard, so I try to use these visits as an opportunity to visit our Airmen, and help with those things that I may able to better address and engage on at the center level. Although we happen to be headquartered in Oklahoma, we don’t want to lose sight of the challenges at our other locations.

Q: How are our Airmen doing across AFSC?
A: I think our Airmen our doing great. There are a lot of changes occurring simultaneously in the Air Force that I feel are causing some anxiety. If there was one piece of advice I would give to our Airmen, it would be for them to focus on the task at hand. Work hard, take care of your people and have fun. Don’t get wrapped around the axle on things you have no control over that get posted on Facebook or in the news. I absolutely love getting out and hearing what’s on our Airmen’s minds and tackling the issues they’re unable to work through. I continue to be in awe at the work we accomplish in our air logistics complexes and the support systems that allow these missions to never miss a beat.

Q: What do you see as the top issues affecting our AFSC Airmen and where are we trying to improve?
A: I’m concerned that our Airmen don’t grasp the true gravity of the work they perform on a daily basis. I want to get our air base wing Airmen into the air logistics complexes and our supply chain Airmen into the airframes they support for them to gain 100% understanding of the big picture role and impact they play in our nation’s defense.

Q: What do you hope your legacy will be in AFSC?
A: Our Airmen’s input during the “AFMC We Need” initiative highlighted some concerns that we’ve been working aggressively within our respective centers. Some of these items were easy fixes while others will take some time. I take each and every one of these inputs to heart and don’t want any of our people to feel they don’t have a voice. There’s a chain of command, but I never want anyone to feel like they can’t call me if they’re not getting the help they need or if they just want to chat.

Q: Any final thoughts?
A: As I near the end of my 30-year Air Force career, I want each and every one of you to know that it’s an honor serving beside you. None of us joined the Air Force because we knew it was going to be easy and it’s the tough jobs, tough assignments and challenging supervisors that make us stronger as Airmen. Take care of each other.