Retired Chief Master Sgt. Robert Gaylor, who served as the fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force from 1977-1979, visited Las Vegas primarily to serve as the guest speaker for the 432nd Wing and 57th Wing's annual award ceremonies.
"Somehow the word got out that I'll do anything for a free meal," Gaylor joked. "It's a privilege to do this. I'll be 84 years old in May and I still get to be a part of our great Air Force."
In addition to speaking at the award banquets, Gaylor addressed a crowd of approximately 350 Airmen from the 432nd Wing, 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing during an all call. He told stories and shared other thoughts and lessons learned from his own Air Force career, which spanned more than three decades.
Gaylor suggested there are four primary reasons the Air Force has changed for the better during the past 60 years: training, technology, tribe (or family) and trust.
"The first word is training," he said. "Today, our training instructors are better trained, better equipped, better compensated, better everything. Beyond that, we now have 70 Airman leadership schools, 11 noncommissioned officer academies, Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, Air War College ... There's no question we do a better job on training today."
He explained the next word, technology, is important because it directly relates to mission accomplishment.
"We operate in a technological environment," Gaylor told the crowd, "it's amazing when you take trained people who are highly skilled, like our Airmen, and you give them equipment and they get the job done. Mission accomplishment - as simple as that. It's marvelous."
The third improvement Gaylor has been happy to see the Air Force make is realizing the importance of family.
He discussed a year-long assignment to South Korea in 1956, during which he left his wife and three young children back in the U.S. There was no family support system then, and he had very little communication with his wife and children. Today, he noted the importance of family support programs and having husbands and wives, parents and children at events like basic training graduations.
Finally, he discussed the importance of trust and how the trust today's Air Force leadership has in young leaders has grown exponentially over the years. He pointed out that there are now enlisted leaders serving as commandants of NCO academies and Airman leadership schools, when they used to be run by officers.
"You're trusted with things that it took us years to be trusted with. I hope you appreciate that - it took us so long to earn," Gaylor implored.
He concluded by reminding Airmen that the key to success is a combination of attitude, knowledge, and opportunity. Particularly if you have the first two under control, the opportunities will follow. He also thanked Airmen for inviting him to speak, which allows him to continue serving in his beloved Air Force.
Gaylor visited the 432nd Wing, 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing to learn about remotely piloted aircraft and the Air Force's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission.
"Even from when I was here three years ago, there's been an entire new inventory of technological devices. The base has grown in both mission and facilities," Gaylor recalled. "I was a comic book reader in the '30s. I used to see this stuff in comic books and would almost laugh as [I read] it, because I'd think, 'you know, that's just somebody making that up.' And now to see it happening ... I'm glad that I saw it in my lifetime. It's a great mission."
He also met with the Human Performance Team, a critical part of the 432nd Wing, 432nd AEW. The team consists of Chapel staff, a physiologist, psychologist, and others who are available 24/7, 365, to provide key guidance and counseling for Airmen in need.
"I'm very impressed with that program," Gaylor said. "It's great that you're putting them on-scene so they can intercept a potential issue before it becomes a major issue. It's relatively small in that it only involves a couple people, but that's a major move."
To wrap up the tour, Gaylor visited another unit that provides key support to the wings, the 799th Air Base Group. There, he met firsthand the personnel, Airman and family readiness center, finance, security forces and other Airmen who ensure seamless mission accomplishment day-to-day.