AFDW hosts first Commanders and Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference
By Master Sgt. Michael B. Keller, Air Force District of Washington
/ Published November 17, 2018
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Air Force District of Washington commanders and senior enlisted leaders from more than 500 locations around the world gathered at the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Conference Center at Joint Base Andrews, Md., for the first AFDW Commanders and Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference Nov. 15.
AFDW is responsible for organizing, training, equipping and providing forces for deployment, providing ceremonial support, and conducting homeland operations including homeland defense, emergency preparedness, and support to National Special Security Events as part of a Joint effort within the National Capital Region.
Headquartered in the National Capital Region, AFDW also serves more than 32 thousand Airmen spanning 100 countries. This service includes providing manpower, personnel, legal, chaplain, finance, logistics, and safety support to more than 2,000 Air Force elements.
The conference gave the leaders from those direct reporting units, forward operating agencies and Air Force elements a chance to interact with their peers and work with AFDW headquarters staff face-to-face.
"This dialogue-focused, interactive conference is designed to tackle your issues, provide purposeful information, build relationships and highlight your unique circumstances so that we may better support you”, said Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson, AFDW commander.
Chief Master Sgt. Melanie K. Noel, AFDW command chief, explained the importance of gathering the unit leadership responsible for so many geographically separated Airmen, and informing them on how AFDW can provide them support, in relation to why the AFDW ultimately exists.
“For all those men and women that are around the world that don’t have a parent MAJCOM [Major Command], how do we get to them?”, said Noel. “They don’t send an email to nine MAJCOMs and 32K airmen around the world. The neat way to get to them is to package them under the Air Force district of Washington.”
During the one-day conference, directors and representatives from AFDW headquarters staff agencies including Manpower, Personnel and Services, Financial Management, and the Judge Advocate highlighted the support AFDW could provide the attendees’ units. This included discussing policy updates, and answering questions about how best to tackle the challenges associated with Airmen who are not assigned to a traditional major command.
Attendees continued the conversation during a working lunch that allowed headquarters staff to address specific issues the elements were experiencing without sacrificing time during the formal presentations.
In addition to the staff presentations, commanders had a break-out session with the AFDW commander, and senior enlisted Airmen were able to discuss enlisted issues with the command chief.
This open dialogue generated conversations that gave geographically-separated Airmen solutions to problems that can arise from not being co-located with other Air Force organizations in their command such as the joint environments at a service university, or combatant command.
The AF Element Central Command Superintendent, Chief Master Sgt. Benjamin Hedden, explained the valuable information he learned about budget support from AFDW that could provide the training and equipment he needs for his Airmen.
“In a [Combatant Command] we do not have Air Force money, so organize, train and equip, that’s a “Big Blue” requirement,” said Hedden. “In a COCOM we don’t have those funds, so to find out AFDW has the access to use of that money from HAF [Headquarters Air Force] that’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
Networking and reaching out to fellow AF element leaders and headquarters staff was also a theme throughout the conference.
“The big win to me is putting faces with individuals that I've emailed constantly every week. That connection. That networking that was accomplished during the whole day was priceless,” said Col. Michael Zick, AF Element Army War College Senior Service Representative.
“It reaffirms that there’s a lot of people trying to do good. As big as “Big Blue” is, it’s very easy to kind of get caught up in the bureaucracy,” said Zick. “But, it's people, leaders, at all levels that overcome the inertia not to move. They're the ones overcoming the roadblocks. It's about the people. It's not about me...it’s about how we support our Airmen.”