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Former CMSAF shares insight on leadership

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Sam Parish visited RAF Mildenhall Aug. 3, as a special guest for the Senior Noncommissioned Officers Induction Ceremony. 

During his visit, he spoke with First-Term Airmen Center students, had a staff call for junior NCOs, and ate lunch with the Chiefs' Group and first sergeants. 

Chief Parish enlisted in 1954 as a ground weather equipment operator, and retired as chief master sergeant of the Air Force in 1986. He currently lives in western Maryland near Camp David but frequently travels to Air Force bases by request to speak at functions. 

During his visit, Mr. Parish took the time to talk with the Marauder about the differences in Airmen, deployment and integrity.

Q: After three tours in Europe during your career, how does it feel to be back? 

Well, I was just over here in January and March. I don't think of myself as ever having left. I think (U.S. Air Forces in Europe) has always had an unbelievably challenging mission even during the Cold War. Now, here we are in the middle of the Iraqi and Afghanistan situation, and Africa, the whole works. It's still an unbelievably exciting place to be.

Q: What differences do you see in the Airmen of today versus 20 years ago when you retired? 

Extraordinarily better. The group of Airmen that we're getting in today, as far as I'm concerned, is the best group of Airmen that we've ever gotten into the Air Force.
They're more worldly, and they come from a society that is much different that the society that produced you. With that, they're maybe a little bit more of a challenge to lead and to supervise, but they are more qualified in many many respects than we were. 

Today's Airmen will be great Airmen with the right leadership, training and supervision.
I think our Air Force will continue to grow into the future, and be better in the future than we are today, and we are the best Air Force we've ever been today.

Q: What message would you send to the Airmen who are deployed and unable to be here? 

A: To the Airmen who are deployed, I would say to them that they're doing what being in uniform is all about. That's why we sign up, whether we realize it or not. I never ask people why they joined the Air Force anymore because it's none of my business.
But, I try to stress to the young people, and also to the people who have been around a while, the oath of enlistment is important to us. 

The oath of enlistment tells it all. It brings to reality that the Air Force is not a social club. 

Q: If there were three pieces of advice that you could offer an up-and-coming enlisted troop, what would they be? 

A: First would be to do the best you can do in whatever your job is, or whatever you're assigned to do. You've got to do that. 

Second, whatever you do, do for the right reason. The right reason never, or very seldom ever, entails 'I'. It's your country, your Air Force, your unit, your people. 

The third thing is that we absolutely do not do what we do for money.

Q: As part of a select fraternity of the highest-ranking enlisted members of the Air Force, what do you think is the most important quality an NCO should possess? 

A: If I had to choose the single most important quality, it would have to be integrity. If you have integrity, you can't be trapped, you can't be 'had.' 

NCOs with integrity develop skills that will carry them far in regards to leadership and supervision. And, those things are absolutely necessary for an NCO to be effective as an NCO.