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18th Air Force command chief reflects on experience, prepares for next assignment

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephani Barge
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“My job [as command chief] is to provide the commander another viewpoint on a wide array of issues for him to consider as we go to the next level to advocate for things the Airmen in each of our 12 wings require,” said Chief Master Sgt. Chris Simpson, 18th Air Force command chief. “Everything from operational impacts and how our different career fields are manned, to diversity and inclusion and COVID response, every aspect of issues that affect our Airmen’s lives.”

Simpson recently toured Dover Air Force Base with Maj. Gen. Thad Bibb, 18th Air Force commander, to see how Dover Airmen contribute to the 18th Air Force mission of warfighter readiness and sustainment, especially in the time of COVID-19.  

According to Simpson, their COVID-19-focused tour through the 436th Medical Group included Public Health, Lab and Pharmacy, which highlighted the efficiency of Dover’s medical Airmen.

“Dover is really knocking it out of the park,” said Simpson. “Dover is thinking through ways to continue to operate with minimal impact on what they’re doing.”

Simpson has maintained a positive impression of Dover Air Force Base since his last visit in 2019. “The biggest thing I’ve noticed about Dover is the close-knit family feel. The wing is very close, and there is also a direct closeness to the supporting community downtown,” said Simpson.

In Simpson’s opinion, the strong sense of community that Dover provides is what drives readiness. “No one can concentrate on anything downrange if they're worried about what’s going on back home. To live and breathe in a community that you know is going to take care of your family or the ample opportunities and services that they can take advantage of give Airmen a certain peacefulness that allows them to go and be warriors.” 

Warrior Airmen was a term used frequently during their tour through the Tactics and Leadership Nexus (TALN), an integrative leadership course and facility. “These warrior, security, defender-type activities and self-aid buddy care we’re doing at TALN are the basic core capabilities that every Airman should be able to do when they land anywhere in any operation,” said Simpson. “We have to continue to instill that in our Airmen, because what we do is hard work, and we need them to be able to push through it when the going gets tough. We need to know we can count on them and that they are going to be there to get it done.”      

Simpson’s experience at TALN brings back memories to the early years of his career. “Before I came to AMC, I had no experience whatsoever in the mobility world. I grew up in the fighter world, spent a lot of time in Air Education and Training Command and on the Korean Peninsula,” said Simpson. “But being here and understanding the global capacity that AMC provides and, in particular, 18th Air Force, has really opened my eyes to its importance. There are many countries that want shiny things like F-22s and F-35s, but logistics are what win wars.”

This will be Simpson’s last visit to Dover Air Force Base as the 18th Air Force command chief. “I’ll be sad to leave 18th Air Force, because it's such a remarkable organization, and it’s filled with people who are doing such unbelievable things at every single level.”

Simpson’s experiences as the 18th Air Force command chief will come in handy as he prepares for his next assignment. “I’m going to Washington, D.C., for the Defense Security Cooperation Agency as the Command Senior Enlisted there,” said Simpson. “It’s going to be getting into areas that are really new to me. Foreign Military Sales with different countries, our partners and building partner capacity as it relates to helping foreign militaries build their enlisted force.” 

Simpson sees his new role as an opportunity to touch Airmen’s lives in a broader way. “Nobody has an enlisted force like we do, and the more we can help our partners build that backbone for their force, the less it burdens our force to go abroad to provide security since they can do it on their own,” said Simpson. “That leaves our folks free to be at home, which we like, and build our own readiness capacity by training, by recuperating and building up our resiliency. There are long-term impacts that directly relate to our warfighters on our front by going and building capacity for foreign militaries.” 

Due to its strategic location, Dover AFB also actively supports $3.5 billion worth of foreign military sales every year with partners and allies throughout the world. This ongoing shared mission will enable Team Dover to continue to engage with Simpson in the future. 

No matter what the future holds, Simpson believes integrity and authenticity will always see leaders through. “Be true to who you are. You don’t have to put on an act. We don’t put you in a job as the command chief of the 18th Air Force and expect you to act a certain way. Stay the same as you were, all the way up through. That’s why people followed you, that's why you are going to different positions and people are asking you to serve alongside. Stay true to yourself, and people will follow you.”

As Simpson reflects on his visit, he recognizes how Dover’s strong community ties accomplish the same goals he has strived for as the 18th Air Force command chief. “All that we do as leaders and as followers should be wrapped around the idea that we create a sense of belongingness and purpose in our folks,” said Simpson. “The more we put our arms around each other, bring them into the organization to create those feelings of closeness, like I’ve seen with Team Dover, the less we have problems with suicide, domestic violence or destructive behaviors, like DUI or sexual assault, because you don’t want to let yourself or your team down, and you know that they’ll take care of you.”