AURORA, Colo. — Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ramón “CZ” Colón-López, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass and Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger A. Towberman gathered March 8 during a panel at the Air and Space Forces Association 2023 Warfare Symposium to discuss the state and future of enlisted forces in the Department of the Air Force.
The panel, titled the “Enlisted Imperative,” highlighted the changing operational environment, ways Airmen and Guardians are critical to maintaining air and space dominance, and efforts to recruit and retain the best members.
“Every one of you matter to the overall impact of the mission, whatever it may be,” Colón-López said. “We need to bridge the ‘know-do’ act. We must better educate you. We must make everyone a thinking entity to look at our complex problems.”
The senior enlisted leaders expounded on the contributions of enlisted forces to DAF efforts and enlisted roles in future conflicts.
“We can give you all the training, all the education,” Colón-López said. “What matters the most is how you feel about what you are doing. If we maintain the fighting spirit, we are going to beat them, plain and simple.”
Colón-López discussed the role of enlisted culture across the joint forces in readiness for a high-end fight.
“One of the greatest lessons over the last 20 years is no service is going to go at anything alone,” Colón-López said. “It’s going to take a combination of assets and cultures to get after the high-end.”
Bass emphasized enlisted professional development and recent updates to the Blue, Brown and Purple Books.
“We’ve done a lot of work over the last few years, focusing on what the future force looks like,” Bass said. “We’ve released things like the Enlisted Blueprint to help guide and understand the role of a United States Airman. The Blue Book, Brown Book and Purple Book were released to help inform today’s Airmen of their expectations for readiness and the Airmen we need them to be.”
A recurring phrase during the event was “Airmen and Guardians are our most competitive advantage.” Each senior enlisted leader charged attendees with being a frontline ambassador by sharing their stories with members of their communities and social groups.
“We are all owners in the Department of the Air Force,” Bass said. “The best recruiters are every one of our Airmen, every one of our Guardians … If we have a strong culture, our team will naturally recruit and retain talent well. If we don’t, it will have the opposite effect.”
Towberman described the importance of understanding Airmen and Guardians and providing environments and qualities of life for them and their families in which they can reach their full potentials as critical to creating lethal and effective fighting forces.
“We cannot navigate the issues we face without understanding our people,” Towberman said. “That’s where our focus has to be … on providing Guardians an experience [in which] they feel they matter.”
Towberman also described the perpetual passing of the torch from one generation to the next and the essential need for each new generation to rise to meet its challenges.
“We’ve talked all week about warfighting and the future,” Towberman said. “It’s sitting in this room. We are doing everything we can until we hang it up, to give you everything we have to give. At the end of the day, the future belongs to you.”