JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright engaged with Airmen from Air Combat Command during an “ACC Plays” event focused on Airmen resiliency Oct. 25 at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.
Wright focused his discussions on how Airmen can work together to foster an environment of inclusiveness, resilience, increased morale and enhanced rapport between Airmen and the teams they work with.
“We have to be better human beings,” Wright said. “We’re so tough on each other sometimes with the way we treat each other. Sometimes there’s nothing better than having a good friend or somebody that will listen to you – that will help you through the tough times.
“Even if you don’t understand what someone is going through, being empathetic enough to say, ‘Man, I’ve never been through what you’re going through, but I’m here for you bro,’ goes a long way.”
During the gaming session, one of the Airmen asked Wright about how to approach situations where Airmen are afraid to ask for help due to fear of punishment or retaliation from senior leaders in the unit.
“I understand where it comes from, but the reality is that less than one percent of people who go to mental health will lose their security clearance,” Wright said. “What I worry more about is the social stigma.”
Not only are Airmen afraid to speak up due to retaliation from senior leaders, but Airmen also don’t want to be the person that causes others in the unit to work harder due to their mental health absences, Wright explained.
“Where we can make a difference is with the people you work with every day,” Wright added. “Because what’s more important is that you get help – that you’re healthy and whole.”
Wright also advised senior leaders to stay engaged with their Airmen, even if that means showing up to play video games they aren’t familiar with.
“Be authentic and be vulnerable,” Wright said. “This wasn’t a stretch for me. I don’t play games, but I do enjoy spending time with Airmen, and spending time with people. A little time spent with our folks can go a long way.”
Airman 1st Class Devyn Anderson, 461st Operations Support Squadron from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, also provided his personal experience during the discussion.
“I haven’t been in the Air Force for very long, but when I’ve gone through some harder times, it was my supervision, two different master sergeants, that helped me get through,” Anderson said. “They noticed that something was off with me. At first I was a little hesitant to explain my situation to someone that was much higher ranking than me. It was them taking the time out of their day to help me that made all of the difference.”
During the discussion, Wright also dispelled negative comments social media followers had about Air Force funding for video games and Airmen morale.
“This type of thing I think is a worthwhile investment,” Wright said. “Anytime you can get a group of us together having meaningful discussions and having a little bit of fun at the same time with getting to know each other, it’s an all-around good thing.
“You’ll never be able to silence the critics,” Wright said. “If you have purity in your heart, and you’re trying to do the right thing, sometimes you have to go with that and not worry about what people say.”
Wright also discussed what he has planned for enlisted Airmen in terms of forward-thinking. He said he wants to put more emphasis on feedback and coaching with the enlisted evaluation system. Wright plans to have those changes ready for implementation in 2020.
“It is important to be a follower, but what is more important to me is leadership,” Wright said. “If I’m not inspirational or a person who has vision – a person that moves you, then that’s not your fault. It’s up to me to inspire you to say, ‘I want to be where he is,’ or, ‘I want to fulfill the vision that he’s set for.”
ACC Public Affairs streamed the event live on YouTube, where followers and viewers had the opportunity to post comments and ask questions for Wright to answer. Click here to see the full video and read the comments from the live chat.