Chief McKinley engages with Academy Airmen

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley talks with the 2009 graduating class during his visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 3. Chief McKinley, the 15th Airman to hold the Air Force's top enlisted position, visited in part to provide a senior enlisted perspective to senior cadets and cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Christopher DeWitt)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley talks with the 2009 graduating class during his visit to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 3. Chief McKinley, the 15th Airman to hold the Air Force's top enlisted position, visited in part to provide a senior enlisted perspective to senior cadets and cadet candidates at the Air Force Academy Preparatory School. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Christopher DeWitt)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The 15th chief master sergeant of the Air Force visited the Air Force Academy April 2 to provide a leadership perspective to the graduating Class of 2009 and cadet candidates. 

This was the second such visit for the Air Force's top enlisted member, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. 

Chief McKinley shared his reasons for wanting to speak with cadets. "This is an opportunity I asked the Academy superintendent for," he said. "I thought it was important because I am not just the chief of the enlisted force and my concern is focused on all Airmen to include officers, enlisted and civilians. 

"I've also spoken to ROTC units, group and wing commander's courses and SOS attendees, in addition to all the enlisted Airmen," Chief McKinley said. "If sharing my experience can help others become better leaders in the future, I want to take advantage of that opportunity." 

Chief McKinley had the following advice for the members of the Class of 2009 as they near becoming second lieutenants. 

"Be a sponge. As young lieutenants you need to be a sponge ... to observe and listen. You will still have the opportunity to lead. However, as young second lieutenants, you should learn from others who have gone on that path before you--learn from their experiences and their mistakes," Chief McKinley said. "Listen as much as possible and enjoy that time." 

A first for Chief McKinley, and highlight for Chief Davis, was a sit-down with the Preparatory School cadets during the visit. 

"Having the chief master sergeant of the Air Force provide a first-hand leadership perspective to both the Class of 2009 and our Preparatory School cadet candidates is an excellent opportunity to hear his take on their roles and responsibilities as future Airmen and officers in our Air Force," Chief Davis said. "It definitely provides a unique perspective promoting their continued growth and development as leaders of character." 

Chief McKinley speaks highly of the soon-to-be second lieutenants. 

"I thought the seniors were great," he said. "They had very good questions and I felt a sense of camaraderie throughout the class. I'm very appreciative to have had this opportunity and want to thank Lt. Gen. [John] Regni and Academy Command Chief Davis for giving me the opportunity to come speak to them." 

Chief Davis said questions from both cadets and cadet candidates were especially timely and probing as they prepare themselves to become Air Force officers and to serve during difficult and challenging times. "All can definitely benefit from the direct interaction with one of our most senior Air Force leaders. Those who have served as chief master sergeant of the Air Force have unique views from the upper-most level and are in an excellent position to talk to us about many of the umbrella issues being tackled for all Airmen." 

While here, Chief McKinley got an up-close look at the 306th Flying Training Group, responsible for all cadet flight and parachute training. 

"Airmen are doing incredible things here," he said. "Visiting the 306th FTG was a learning experience for me ... to see all the great things our Airmen are doing better preparing cadets for their futures as officers." 

During the visit to the 306th FTG, Chief McKinley received a mission briefing highlighting the cadet training and he also spoke with some of the enlisted members of the unit. 

"The chance for our young, NCOs, and senior NCOs to interact with Chief McKinley was great, and for them to hear some of the important topics being discussed at the highest levels of the Air Force such as the changes in the PT Testing was extremely beneficial," said Col. Patrick Moylan, 306th FTG commander. 

Chief McKinley further reflected on the Academy visit as a whole. 

"For me it's always a great pleasure to come to Colorado Springs and the Academy," he said. "There's something about being here that's truly 'Air Force' and makes me proud to be an Airman."