12th AF Command Chief Master Sgt. visits the 552nd ACW

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Chief Master Sgt. Alex del Valle, Twelfth Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt., visited Tinker last week to attend the 552nd Air Control Wing change of command ceremony. The Chief took the opportunity to visit with Noncommissioned and Senior Noncommissioned Officers of the Wing. In addition, he took time to answer some questions for the Tinker Take Off.

Tinker Take Off: What does it mean to be a Component Numbered Air Force?

Chief del Valle: “In layman’s terms, a component numbered air force is the Air Force part of the combatant command. A traditional NAF does the organize, train, and equip mission, and is an administrative echelon in our Air Force command structure. Our CNAF, 12 AF (AFSOUTH), is the Air Force operational arm to the combatant command. Our combatant command is US Southern Command and the area of cooperation covers Central and South America.”

TTO: What is the mission of Air Forces Southern?

Chief del Valle: “To avoid quoting the mission statement, I’ll say AFSOUTH provides both combat-ready forces to respond to contingencies and provides airpower through Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, mobility, and if required, strike missions, across the USSOUTHCOM area of cooperation.”

TTO: What do you value or expect from Noncommissioned and Senior Noncommissioned Officers?

Chief del Valle: “First and foremost, make decisions and lead! The only decision an NCO can make that will be 100 percent wrong 100 percent of the time is no decision. I expect NCOs of all ranks to make decisions within their scope of responsibility. If something is outside of an NCO’s scope, then the NCO must find someone who can make the decision. Too often I find NCOs looking to higher echelons to make decisions because they are either unwilling or afraid to make the decision for fear of possible negative repercussions. Most of us know where the gravel starts on either side of the road; we are allowed to operate anywhere within that road and make decisions within that space. Take responsibility for things under your control and execute decisions to move the mission forward.”

TTO: How is the new Enlisted Performance Report system working out? Are there any changes that need to be made?

Chief del Valle: “In my opinion, the new EPR system is working more or less as it should. Not only does it shift focus primarily to duty performance, but it also leads to more appropriate promotion opportunities. Under the previous system, our EPRs had little to no effect on promotions as nearly all competitive members had all 5 ratings. Our commanders had little ability to increase promotion opportunities for the most deserving. Since there will never be enough stripes for every deserving promotion hopeful, our new EPR system allows commanders to at least provide input to who should be first, second, third, etc until stripes run out.  The member’s testing ability still plays a large part, but solid duty performance is the primary factor. Do we need to make any changes? Right now, no. If we keep changing the system, it will never settle in as our normal process. Personally, I’d like to see the future roles blocks be used officially as Developmental Special Duty pushes and have the system pull directly from those EPR DSD pushes for DSD assignments.”

TTO: Are there any enlisted initiatives on the horizon?

Chief del Valle: “Chief Master Sgt. Of the Air Force Wright and the Air Force Senior Enlisted Leader Council along with some other select key Chief Master Sgts. across the service, are looking at a number of recommendations for the future. Getting enlisted Remote Piloted Aircraft pilots is a huge step toward the future. While there are many other discussions and ideas, there are a few things that are open for general awareness. 

Bringing back warrant officers is a commonly requested topic and it is currently being looked at/considered. That doesn’t mean they’re coming back, but this is the first time in my nearly 28 years that a serious discussion on warrant officers has happened. If brought back, I don’t know what the “use” plan would be but stay tuned to the Air Force Portal for more.

Recently changed is the Noncommisioned Officer Academy Distance Learning course testing process. The NCOA DL is now three blocks with a test after each block. Once a block test is complete, that block will not be tested again; there is no final exam, just the three block tests.

Not necessarily an enlisted issue, but the Air Force is looking at options of possibly making the Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform our duty uniform. Like warrant officers, this is simply being looked at and considered. If adopted, will have a phase in period much like when we changed from Battle Dress Uniforms to Air Battle Uniforms.

Lastly, thank you to all the men and women of the 552nd ACW and Team Tinker. Command and Control is a huge part of what our Air Force does and with General Goldfein’s third focus area being multi-domain C2, you are at the forefront of our United States Air Force mission!”