EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, California --
The commander of Air Force Materiel Command and his senior enlisted advisor touched down at Edwards Air Force Base, California, Oct. 23 to meet with Airmen and helping agency leaders.
Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., AFMC Commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Stanley C. Cadell, AFMC Command Chief Master Sergeant, met with leaders of the various on-base helping agencies to thank them for their ongoing efforts to support Airmen and families in light of increased stress levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thank you to all of our Airmen, and when I talk about Airmen, I’m talking about all of our people--not only uniformed, but the non-uniformed as well,” said Bunch during a helping agency roundtable.
Following the opening remarks, Bunch invited questions from those present.
“I purposely did not invite your senior leaders to this forum so we can be honest and open with each other. No question is off the table,” said Bunch.
Mental health and wellness quickly became the major topic of discussion during the questions-and-answers period that followed. Bunch stressed the importance of looking out for each other at all levels and making sure to take time for not only one’s own personal wellness, but keeping coworkers in mind and looking out for them as well.
“COVID-19 has changed the way we work,” said Bunch. “Teleworking has -continued to work well, but we need to make sure that social distance does not result in social isolation.”
Bunch discussed some tips for maintaining social connectedness:
- Turn your camera on during video teleconferencing meetings so you can see your co-workers and they can see you.
- Look for signs of change in each other that might indicate someone is feeling down or depressed and ask, “how are you doing?” and listen sincerely.
- Make time to socialize in a safe manner, but stay involved with co-workers and don’t isolate yourself.
- If you notice someone has had a change in personality and is withdrawn, talk to them.
In addition to the helping agency meeting, Bunch and Cadell also took time to meet with first-line supervisors from groups and squadrons to have an open discussion with them.
As with the helping agencies forum, the group discussed wellness and emphasized the need for supervisors to maintain contact with their team members.
However, when asked about bringing personnel who have been teleworking back to working on base, Bunch reiterated that teleworking has proven to be a valuable tool during the pandemic.
“We are not going back to the way things were before COVID-19. We are not putting people back into the workplace anytime soon,” said Bunch. “While some positions are impossible to conduct via telework, such as first responders, medical, maintenance etc., DoD and the Office of Personnel Management are looking at all federal positions to determine if telework is a viable option, whether full-time or part time going forward.”
As the finale to their visit, Bunch and Cadell took to the air for a live-streamed town hall via social and internal media to address the entire Wing, thanking them for their innovative approach and response to the pandemic as well as answer questions from the audience.
Continuing on the day’s theme of wellness and resilience, Bunch told the audience of 100 attendees who were allowed into the 600-seat base theater as well as hundreds more who participated virtually, “The most valuable resource we have and the foundation of everything we do in this command, are the Airmen, uniformed and non-uniformed. That’s how we go, so if you need help, ask….I need you to keep talking to each other.”
The event was well received and ran into overtime as Bunch and Cadell continued to answer questions, wanting to get as many people heard as possible. In closing, Bunch and Cadell both re-emphasized the need for all Airmen to look out for each other and take care of each other at the individual, small group and unit level.