One-on-one with the 9th CMSAF
9/25/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Binnicker took time Sept. 18 and 19 to talk with Kunsan Airmen and get a firsthand look at the Wolf Pack's mission.
Binnicker, who served as the ninth CMSAF from 1986 to 1990, said getting out and talking to today's Airmen lets him stay current on issues they face.
"He was the CMSAF when I was just a one-striper. I never thought I'd be a command chief and getting face-to-face time with him," said Chief Master Sgt. Phillip Robinson, 8th Fighter Wing command chief. "It's an honor to meet him and have him here talking to our Airmen. He has a lot of great wisdom to share."
The former CMSAF made time in his busy itinerary to answer some questions from the Wolf Pack.
As a retiree, why do you stay involved in the Air Force?
It is the one thing that surprised me when I retired. The Air Force won't let you retire. It's not some ego trip we're on that we have to stay connected. It's that the Air Force wants you to visit. It doesn't matter how long ago you retired, Airmen still pay respect to the position. They stand up, they want your autograph and they want a picture taken with you ... it's just amazing.
I get more out of talking to Airmen than they do.
If I am going to continue being involved, then what I say to an audience should be relevant. If I don't do this and talk to today's Airmen and more importantly listen to them, then I am a dinosaur and everything is from a historical perspective. I choose to do that so I'm up to speed with today's Airmen, their likes and dislikes.
What advice do you have for the NCOs responsible for developing younger Airmen?
Take care of the Airmen you're responsible for. Get to know them. They need to understand you do care and it has to be sincere. You can't be phony about it because they can see through that. And if you are not sincere in the way you treat the people who work for you, then you have no credibility. If you have no credibility, then you aren't a leader.
The NCOs have to be responsible for the Airmen, and training and nurturing and caring for them. I don't mean hugging and stuff like that. You can be a strong leader and be compassionate at the same time. I think compassionate leaders are the most effective. They have the best success rate in whatever they're doing because the people who work for them respect them and want to do well.
What advice do you have for new Airmen just coming in?
First, congratulations on making the right decision. Then, study very, very hard and become the current subject matter expert in whatever job you have so you know it better than anyone else. I think that's part of the key to success, to be that expert. Whether you're in dining services or a crew chief, it doesn't make a difference. We don't have any unimportant jobs in the Air Force.
Part of the responsibility of the NCO corps is to welcome the Airmen and show them where they fit in so they understand what they do and how it contributes to the overall Air Force mission. Because if you don't know where you fit in that whole thing, then you feel less than important.
Study hard, have fun doing it. You can have fun and be serious with your job. Sometimes, I think we have lost the art of having fun. We take ourselves too seriously.
What words do you have for Kunsan Airmen who are serving away from their families?
You have to be here. You know that, so why not make the most of that? Set a goal ... lose 25 pounds, workout, study so you score higher on your promotion test, learn a language, learn to play the guitar. We have all these things available to our Airmen. Get involved instead of going to your dorms at the end of the day and feeling sorry for yourself because you're 10,000 miles away from your loved one. Recognize this is part of the deal. A year goes by so fast, so why not take advantage of it and look at it in a positive way?
What led you to stay in the Air Force after you joined?
My entry into the Air Force was less than good. In my mind, I was destined to fly jets but a hearing loss prevented me from doing that, so I joined with a chip on my shoulder.
The NCO corps back then was not as professional as it is today. It wasn't what I thought it was going to be. I couldn't fly, so I was going to do my time and get out.
So what in the midst of that disappointment and lack of leadership caused me to raise my right hand and stay in? The word "mentorship" wasn't used back then, but there was a maintenance sergeant who took me under his wing and in a very subliminal way influenced me to be what I am today.
How does the Wolf Pack's mission tie into the overall Air Force mission?
Air superiority is what we are good at. The world is changing and Pacific Air Forces is going to become more important than ever before. You would have to be in a coma not to know that, simply by reading the paper and listening to the news. With the threat that we see, the mission will move from Europe and the Middle East, and the Pacific will become the new battlefront.
The mission at the Wolf Pack is going to become increasingly more important. The history and the heritage of the 8th Fighter Wing is legendary and in the perfect spot to be here and maintain the air superiority should the need arise.