Command Chief: “The work of the sustainment center is like oxygen”

  • Published
  • By Amy Schiess
  • Air Force Sustainment Center

He wears a uniform with command chief insignia, but Air Force Sustainment Center Command Chief Master Sgt. Robert Schultz doesn’t want that to make anyone think he is here to serve and lead only military members.

“I don’t view myself as the chief for just the enlisted, I’m the chief of the Air Force Sustainment Center,” Schultz said. “If it matters to our civilian or military Airmen, then it matters to me. I’m here to help the entire organization.”

It is a significant undertaking, as the 40,000-person AFSC workforce is approximately 88 percent civilian and dispersed among 24 locations. To help bridge the communication gap, Schultz established a Facebook page – Air Force Sustainment Center Command Chief. He uses the page to highlight Airmen throughout the center, show the many missions of AFSC and share information from senior Air Force leadership.

“You can get a lot accomplished through social media, but by no means is it a replacement for one-on-one personal contact,” Schultz said. “That’s a key reason why we get out there and talk to Airmen. Eye-to-eye contact – that’s part of the human experience that is critical if you intend to lead.”

Visiting Airmen where they work has helped Schultz learn first-hand the extent of the AFSC mission.

“I anticipated a learning curve coming into this, but it has been steeper than I thought and I anticipate it is going to be for the entire time I’m here,” he said. “The size and scope of what the sustainment center encompasses and the complexity of all the moving parts is impressive.”

As an “Air Mobility guy” by trade, Schultz spent the majority of his career benefitting from the work of Air Force Materiel Command delivering well-maintained aircraft to the flight line. “I bring a full understanding of what it means to trust the quality of work we do, having flown on those aircraft, having loaded them. We put our Airmen back in the fight with those assets,” Schultz said.

That background gives the command chief a greater appreciation for the AFSC mission today. “The work of the sustainment center is like oxygen,” said Schultz. “We don’t think about it day to day, we just breathe. The Air Force breathes in the hard work and we just expect it to happen. But as soon as you restrict that oxygen, it becomes the only thing you think about. Leaders are recognizing what the center actually does for our Air Force mission,” he said. “I’m excited to be here with so much focus on the hard work being done.”

In his conversations with Airmen, Schultz makes it a point to address readiness, particularly regarding the pacing challenges the military is facing. He wants to ensure they understand the gravity of the situation and what it may mean in terms of actual conflict.

“For years, we operated from a position of superiority where we have been able to dictate when and how war was executed,” he said. “In the next conflict, that may no longer be the case. My focus is to ensure we are developing the next generation of Airmen for that high-end fight.”

The chief highlights two main elements when it comes to the personal development of a trustworthy Airman – competence and character. His advice to those just starting their careers focuses on maturing these aspects.

“Establish a strong foundation of job competence. That sound foundation builds credibility,” he said. “We need experts. We don’t need you to be just generally good. That’s not going to win the war.”

And character, he said, can make or break a career. “Stay focused on being a good person and doing the right thing and you will ultimately be successful.”