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Commentary: 5 Lanes of a Chief

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Marvin V. Parker
  • 36th Mission Support Group

Recently, I had a conversation with a group of amazing Senior NCOs about typical enlisted issues -- nothing earth-shattering.  During the discussion, a SNCO brought up a concern he had about the level of customer service at a facility.  Rather than addressing the situation at the time with the organization's supervision, the SNCO decided to bring it up in our discussion.  As the SNCO continued to express his displeasure, I asked why he did not immediately bring his concerns to the leadership of that facility. He stated, "Because that is not my lane."  I was certainly taken back by the SNCO's response; however, the comment " ... that is not my lane" resonated with me, prompting some self-reflection.

So, I've highlighted five areas that are specifically within the chief's lane.  One could argue there are more than five lanes; however,  I have only discussed my thoughts on a chief's role as the Subject Matter Expert of all Enlisted Matters, First Sergeant Development and Primary Mentor, Company Grade Officer Development, Field Grade Officer Support, and as a Trusted Enlisted Agent to the Commander.

The chief is the SME of all enlisted matters, and the chief's word must be implicitly accepted. The development of the first sergeant is in a chief's lane, and the chief is the first sergeant's primary mentor.  The development of our CGOs is in a chief's lane.  Problem-solving, continuous improvement and cross-functional communication are all in the chief's lane when developing our CGO corps.  Chiefs work with FGOs to manage the increased complexities of reshaping the organization as the Air Force continues to evolve.  FGOs are crucial operating systems for connecting organizational teams to the strategic definition of the relevant work the unit does toward mission accomplishment. I assert the relationship between the commander and the chief is the most unique of all previously mentioned.  I also assert that every commander shares a deep-seated confidence in the chief's knowledge, talents and expertise.

For better or for worse chiefs must own strategy and be prepared to reshape the developmental plans of the enlisted, CGOs, FGOs and the commanders when required.  Chiefs have a profoundly significant role in the unit and the Air Force. Lanes of the chiefs are ever-changing and unpredictable at best, so the more flexibility the chiefs exercise the better the unit is overall.

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