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Joint Chiefs Senior Enlisted Advisor Visits Homeland Defenders

By Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Nov. 9, 2005 – The senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spent his first trip outside of the national capital region getting an up-close look at the military commands responsible for the Defense Department's homeland-defense efforts.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, makes a point during his Nov. 7-8 visit to the headquarters of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Shane Wallenda, USN

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, who became the first senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Sept. 30, visited the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command Nov. 7-8 to better understand how the two commands carry out their mission of defending the homeland.

Gainey made this his first stop "because I had to fully understand what NORAD and U.S. NORTHCOM did in relationship with defending the homeland."

He added: "U.S. NORTHCOM has been providing front-line support to the Gulf Coast region" following hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. "With our own people requiring much needed help, it was only fitting that I visit the command and lend my support to our troops," he said.

NORTHCOM was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. The command's mission is to serve as the Defense Department's lead for homeland defense and military support to civil authorities. NORAD is charged with providing comprehensive, integrated aerospace defense of North America.

During his visit to Colorado Springs, Gainey received briefings of the commands' missions and tours of the NORAD Air Warning Center inside Cheyenne Mountain and the NORTHCOM Joint Operations Center. He concluded his tour at a dinner with senior enlisted leaders from nearby Fort Carson.

While the sergeant major said it was "really rewarding" to understand what the two commands do to defend the homeland and its territories, the highlight of the trip was presenting chief master sergeant stripes to Brad Shirley the day he was selected for promotion to the Air Force's highest enlisted grade.

"I was given the great honor of giving a chief master sergeant his stripes," Gainey said. "I got to share the moment with a servicemember."

Gainey said he's "honored and humbled" to serve as the advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on matters of professional development of enlisted personnel working in a joint environment.

"It's a position that I take very seriously, because there's a lot of quality senior enlisted leaders out there that were considered for the position," he said. "I have an obligation to ... do what I can to make servicemembers' lives better."

Gainey, who served as the command sergeant major for Multinational Force Iraq, has a leadership philosophy based on four principles: responsibility, authority, accountability and assistance.

"Once we give servicemembers responsibility, the next thing they ask of us is to give them the authority to be responsible," Gainey said. He noted giving someone responsibility without the authority to make decisions "is not giving them anything."

In addition, he said, troops want to be held accountable for their actions, both good and bad, and they want leaders to assist them when they stumble.

"Everyone's going to stumble in their career," Gainey said. "What I would ask leaders to do when their troops stumble is to pick them up, shake them off, get them back in the right direction, and tell them they've done a good job."

The trip to Colorado Springs was Gainey's first step in fulfilling his initial goal of visiting the senior enlisted advisors of all nine combatant commands so he could better understand how he can be their voice to the chairman.

"I have to get out and really understand what I can do to make their jobs easier," Gainey said, "because by making their jobs easier, I'm taking care of our servicemembers."

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher is assigned to the combined Public Affairs Office of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.)

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