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Retired CMSAF visits Robins PME students, newly named Chiefs

Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray speaks at the NCO Academy Friday. U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray speaks at the NCO Academy Friday. U.S. Air Force photo by Sue Sapp

Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray visited Robins last week to help usher in its newest crop of chief master sergeants during the 2007 Chiefs' Recognition Ceremony March 9.

Along the way to his speaking engagement at the night of honor for nine newly named chiefs, Chief Murray invested a little time with the future of the enlisted corps during stops at the Robins Airman Leadership School and Noncommissioned Officer Academy.

"Although I'm no longer wearing the same uniform as you, I am still very much plugged into our Air Force," the former chief said to the ALS class.

Rattling off a list of subscriptions to military news services and the names of several boards he still sits on, Chief Murray proved although he now works as a military contractor and not an enlisted Airman, he still has his finger on the service's pulse.

The two classes of Airmen sat eyes front as the 14th chief master sergeant of the Air Force offered advice for their professional development and explained the importance of having a purpose.

"You are at the entry level of one of the greatest processes of professional military education," he told the ALS students. "That doesn't mean there aren't things we can do to make it better."

He urged them to take the surveys offered at the end of their coursework to show leadership just that.

One of the questions from the gallery was what advice he could offer those who plan to stay in the Air Force and have aspirations of one day becoming a chief master sergeant.

The first advice he offered was building a sturdy financial foundation. "It's time to start thinking about your financial future," he said. "The Thrift Savings Plan is one of the best investments you can make today and you have a government standing behind it."

Another piece of advice was to join professional associations.

"When the service was a drafted force, the enlisted force was not looked at as being professionals," he said. "I'll tell you this; you are just as much of a professional as a commissioned officer. A professional is simply someone who is committed to their profession and making it better."

He added that the Airmen should also look for opportunities to serve and become better communicators, and to "know your job."

"Be an expert at what you do," he said. "Know the AFIs and regulations."

During his dialogue, the retired Chief challenged both classes of Airmen to recite the Air Force Chief of Staff's priorities for the Air Force, and he emphasized to both the importance of keeping them at the forefront of their minds.

"When you walk out of this class, you need to be able to articulate the Chief of Staff's priorities and also know the theme 'Heritage to Horizons,'" he said. "It means being connected to your past to see where it will take you in the future."

The first priority is winning the global war on terror, the second is developing and caring for Airmen and their families and the third is the recapitalization and modernization of the fleet.

He explained how although the reduction in force or force shaping seems to go against priority number two, in actuality it doesn't.

"Ten thousand people cost $1.5 billion a year to sustain including pay and entitlements," he said. "If we can cut 10,000 people, that's $1.5 billion that can be put into the modernization and recapitalization account. We're flying the oldest fleet of aircraft that we have in the history of the force today and it must be replaced," Chief Murray said. "We didn't go in to this saying we thought we had too many people in the Air Force for the missions we have, we went in saying our force was out of balance."

He explained that the additional number of troops added to other services is causing a second look at the cuts because Air Force support will be needed to accommodate them.

Other subjects raised by the students ranged from the media coverage of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal to roles and missions across forces.

"We are learning to be a better joint force," Chief Murray said. "We swore to support and defend our nation against enemies foreign and domestic not just in the Air Force."

Reaction to the Chief's speeches was positive.

"I thought his speech was really good," said Senior Airman Sean Edmonds, ALS student and 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron airborne operations technician. "I'd heard him speak before at our basic training graduation. I was impressed by how much he knew."

School leadership was also impressed.

"A leader knows the way, goes the way and shows the way and that's what all of this ties into," said Master Sgt. Matthew Ogle, Airman Leadership School flight chief. "He (Chief Murray) brought it down to a plausible, human level where it's possible for these students to believe they can achieve greatness."

Master Sgt. Claudia Lowe, 78th Air Base Wing career assistance advisor, agreed.

"This environment nurtures growth," she said. "When you have the pinnacle of the enlisted rank stand before you and say when I was in your position I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be where I am today, you can't help but be inspired."