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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | June 26, 2009

Chief master sergeant of the Air Force shows strength, care throughout his term

By Chief Master Sgt. Neil McGillicuddy 89th Communications Squadron flight superintendent

In a little less than one week, the 15th Chief Master of the Air Force, Rodney J. McKinley, will retire from Active Duty. What better time than now to reflect on the chief's tenure as our top enlisted leader? 

Chief McKinley will be the first person to tell you that he's not interested in legacy talk. This was seen in his recent remarks at the 2008 Airlift Tankers Association meeting when he said, "I don't care about any legacy; I just care about taking care of Airmen." In that statement is the legacy of Rodney J. McKinley; taking care of Airmen. 

Collectively looking back over his time as the chief master sergeant of the Air Force, his achievements include speaking at the dedication of the Air Force Memorial, establishing the Enlisted Heroes Walk at Basic Military Training, advocating changes to feedback and performance report forms, championing the Airman's Creed and fitness, expanding the attendance at the Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference, being a key voice in the Anti Tobacco Campaign, staunchly supporting the Wounded Warrior Program and travelling the world as our spokesman, advocate and leader. Of course, Chief McKinley has been a part of much more than these few achievements. In my opinion, all of these overshadow what I consider to be his greatest accomplishment, which is the leadership he provided to all of the Airmen when the top tier of the Air Force command structure faced a complete makeover in June 2008. 

The chief master sergeant of the Air Force position is one of the three legs of the Air Force leadership tripod. Each leg depends on the other for balance. Imagine the shock when two of those legs disappeared. The one left standing must immediately find the strength and agility to stay calmly focused in supporting the sudden load placed upon it. This is where Chief McKinley found himself in June 2008. The eyes of not just the enlisted force, but the entire Air Force were upon him. Would he succumb to the pressure? Would he resign the position? Could he lead the transition as the new Air Force leadership came aboard? All of these demands were placed upon the shoulders of an enlisted leader. This was historic and had no real precedent. Chief McKinley did what more than 30 years of experience and Airmanship had prepared him for: he led. One of the cornerstones of his leadership was the promise of getting back to basics, which was outlined in arguably his most important enlisted perspective theme "Blocking and Tackling." 

Here we are - almost a year to the day that the changes in the top tier occurred. We have shifted priorities, taken on new challenges and are still fighting two wars in different parts of the world. Historians will look back at the events and dissect, analyze and conclude. From this historic perspective comes the remarkable legacy of Chief McKinley. When faced with one of the biggest challenges to ever confront an Air Force enlisted leader, he succeeded in the face of overwhelming obstacles and set new benchmarks for not only his office, but all enlisted leaders as well. Why? How? A simple answer to those that know the Chief: he takes care of Airmen. His legacy and a commitment to leadership excellence is something we can all take part in and be proud of. Thanks Chief!