Air Base Wing welcomes 1st command chief

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
  • Air Force Academy Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. David Staton is used to turning Airmen into professional leaders: he's done it throughout much of his career, from multiple tours as a military training instructor to five first sergeant positions and a year-long deployment to build the Afghan air force's enlisted corps. Now he'll have a chance to continue building Airmen in both enlisted and officer ranks as the 10th Air Base Wing's first command chief master sergeant.

Chief Staton, a native of Gentry, Ark., joined the Air Force in 1988, telling the Air Force recruiter, "I want a hat, and I want a T-shirt. Where do I sign?" Twenty-three years later, he's still glad he did.

"I was an 18-year-old kid, and I didn't know what I wanted to do," Chief Staton recalled. "The best thing I ever did in my life was walk into that recruiter's office."

Less than three years after graduating from Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, the chief -- a senior airman at the time -- returned to Lackland Air Force Base, this time wearing a campaign hat. He served in the 737th Training Group nine years out of the next 11. But he changed the direction of his career after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I had wanted to become a first sergeant, but I hadn't taken that step forward," Chief Staton said. "After 9/11, I realized I needed to follow my heart." From 2002 to 2008, he held five first sergeant jobs, including a six-month deployment as a first sergeant to Southwest Asia.

Chief Staton returned to Lackland AFB one more time, serving as the training superintendent for the 323rd Training Squadron and the superintendent for the 319th TS. In January 2010, he deployed again -- this time to Kandahar Airfield for a full year.

"I was advising (Afghan air force) Command Sgt. Maj. Mohammad Hassan and Maj. Gen. (Abdul Raziq) Sherzai, and I was taking care of our Airmen," Chief Staton said. "That was probably the coolest job I've ever had. The Afghan air force is just starting, and I was right there."

Afghan airmen and soldiers who only go home once or twice a year served to inspire Chief Staton and his fellow servicemembers, he said. The shared sense of purpose kept them focused despite being half a world away from home themselves.

Yet while the Air Force Academy is separated from the Kandahar Air Wing by some 7,000 miles, the two units share a similar mission: training tomorrow's Airmen.

"His experience fits really well into what we do here: training lieutenants about the role of the NCO and how to use them correctly," said Chief Master Sgt. Todd Salzman, the command chief for the Academy.

Chief Staton's predecessors, most recently Chief Master Sgt. Stef Dunson, held the job title of 10th ABW superintendent. Chief Salzman thought that needed to change and worked with 10th ABW Commander Col. Rick LoCastro and the Academy Chiefs' Group to change the job's name to fit its description.

"The superintendent was already doing what a command chief does but didn't get to wear the insignia," Chief Salzman said. "He didn't get to interview for higher-level command chief jobs because he didn't have that 9E000 Air Force Specialty Code. I wanted to formalize what the (wing) superintendent role entails and allow whoever's in that position to move up to a larger wing or numbered Air Force command chief slot."

In his discussions with Colonel LoCastro and the Chief's Group, Chief Salzman divided the duties he and the new 10th ABW command chief would share, splitting them along a strategic/tactical line. For example, Chief Staton may work on day-to-day issues in the enlisted Airmen's dormitories while Chief Salzman might work on a five-year dormitory master plan.

While the 10th Air Base Wing plays a support role to the Academy's overall training mission, Chief Staton said he's proud of what his people are doing to keep the Academy moving in the right direction.

But while the scope of their duties might differ, both chiefs place taking care of the Academy's enlisted Airmen as their top priority.

"Sometimes all people need is someone to let them know what they're capable of. If you believe in your people and let them know you believe in them, and if you give them the tools to get their jobs done, they will do extraordinary things."