News | April 3, 2006

Innovative command chief relies on experience to shape today’s troops

By Staff Sgt. Michael Voss 1st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

With one look at him, it is apparent that the 1st Fighter Wing command chief is a throwback to an era when Airmen didn’t ask questions or think about getting out at the end of their first enlistment, but first impressions can be deceiving.

Chief Master Sgt. James C. Johnson was assigned as Langley’s command chief in October. The Radcliff, Ky., native’s initial enlistment began nearly 24 years ago in 1982, and since that time he has never looked back.

“I knew from that moment that I would stay as long as the Air Force would have me,” said the command chief. “It’s flown by and I have gotten to experience opportunities I would have never been able to at such a young age.”

Although some aspects of Chief Johnson are more prevalent in an older Air Force he is a lot like the car he drives-a 2006 Ford Mustang.

The Mustang is a redesign of a 1965 classic, with modern advances bringing it into the 21st Century. Like the Mustang, Chief Johnson knew a long time ago that change was a good thing, and he would have to be willing to understand change to be successful in the military.

This analogy proves essential in the position he holds as the chief advisor to the 1st Fighter Wing commander, General Burton Field, on all enlisted matters. Part of his changing through the years has included monitoring trends in the enlisted force and Airmen in general.

“Yeah, today’s Airmen are different ... sometimes you hear a lot of bad stuff, but I don’t buy it,” said the chief. “They ask more questions than we ever did, but that is today’s leadership’s challenge -- to answer those questions.”

It’s obvious talking to the command chief he has a respect for the Airmen of today’s military.

“We ask them to do phenomenal things they would not have to worry about in the outside world,” he said.

The chief explained the Air Force is transitioning to a Joint Service and not in general terms but even here at Langley “and so we should,” he said.

“Each service brings in their own skills ... I would put our Airmen against any anywhere I have ever been,” said Chief Johnson.

The challenge is to continually progress, and we do that through professional development courses, explained the chief.

“One of my goals is to push attendance at these courses,” he said.

He explained that road hasn’t always been smooth -- there have been bumps -- but it has been worth it.

“I have never been to a base I didn’t like ... the key is to find the lesson in everything,” he said. “I have never forgotten that it’s the people you work with that make the difference.”

The chief is one of those rare guys who still carries himself like the symbol of power he is, but has the insight to listen and hear the times changing.
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