CMSAF Cody kicks off NCLS

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody speaks to Airmen and cadets at Arnold Hall at the beginning of the 2015 National Character and Leadership Symposium Feb. 26, 2015. NCLS is an annual event held by the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody speaks to Airmen and cadets at Arnold Hall at the beginning of the 2015 National Character and Leadership Symposium Feb. 26, 2015. NCLS is an annual event held by the U.S. Air Force Academy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Jason Gutierrez)

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody kicked off the Air Force Academy's 2015 National Character and Leadership Symposium by showcasing the enlisted Airmen cadets will lead as officers once they graduate, and reminding them of the importance of leadership in the profession of arms.

Cody, the 17th Airman to hold the Air Force's highest NCO position, said cadets must be prepared to lead an enlisted corps that will look to them for guidance and inspiration.

"When you graduate, you are going to be leaders among leaders," Cody said. "The nearly 400,000 enlisted men and women of our Air Force will look to you as their leaders, and they expect you to lead them."

The chief said officers cannot afford to make leadership about themselves.

"When you go out there and lead those Airmen, it no longer has anything to do with you," he said. "If you make it about you, you're going to turn around one day and realize that the only one you're leading is yourself. It's not about your accomplishments; it's about how you motivate your team and inspire them to produce combat effects for the nation."

Cody said the Air Force core values -- Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do -- must guide cadets as they prepare for Air Force careers. The Academy developed the core values in 1994, and the Air Force adopted them service wide in 1995.

"There is no greater commitment than that made by those who serve our country," he said. "The core values must be part of the fabric of who we are, because if they are not, then we are destined to fail."

Cody said he knows the cadets who graduate from the Air Force Academy will be ready to lead once they graduate.

"There is no question in this Airman's eyes or in the eyes of any of our senior leaders, that you will be prepared," he said. "I cannot wait for the day I will salute each of you as officers in the world's greatest Air Force, but do not forget it is a privilege to lead."

The chief closed with a reference to a quote from John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the U.S.

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and to become more, then you are a leader," he said.

NCLS is an annual two-day conference that brings together distinguished scholars, leaders in the armed forces and others to explore character and leadership with cadets and students from other colleges. This year's theme is "Serving Our Nation: Our Calling, Core Values and Commitments."

In introducing Cody as the first speaker for NCLS, Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson said she hoped cadets and other visitors would reflect on what they learned during and after the event.

"Listen to people who have fought their way through challenging issues," she said. "What is the meaning of our calling? What do the oaths and commitments we take really mean? Take on board that which means something to you, and continue the dialog after the event ends."