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Pacific Air Forces Command Chief Master Sgt. Rodney J. McKinley shakes hands with Senior Airman Nekia Mbaye after giving her a coin during his visit to Misawa Air Base, Japan, last week. Mbaye, of the 35th Aerospace Medical Squadron, was named the top 2004 bioenvironmental technician in the Air Force.
Pacific Air Forces Command Chief Master Sgt. Rodney J. McKinley shakes hands with Senior Airman Nekia Mbaye after giving her a coin during his visit to Misawa Air Base, Japan, last week. Mbaye, of the 35th Aerospace Medical Squadron, was named the top 2004 bioenvironmental technician in the Air Force. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — When he assumed the job seven months ago, Pacific Air Forces’ Command Chief Master Sgt. Rodney J. McKinley didn’t make a list of personal goals.

“I don’t have any personal goals,” McKinley said. “My goals are for airmen — to make sure that our airmen are well taken care of, their families are well taken care of and that we properly train and equip our airmen to go and do the Air Force’s mission.”

In pursuit of that end, McKinley, accompanied by the new U.S. Forces Japan and 5th Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Jim Roy, spent some time last week getting to know airmen at Yokota and Misawa air bases. It was McKinley’s first visit to the Japan bases since he replaced Chief Master Sgt. David Popp. He’s already been to U.S. bases in South Korea, Guam and Alaska, with plans to drop in on Kadena Air Base on Okinawa in the near future.

McKinley is a Bronze Star recipient who has spent nearly 27 years in the Air Force; his last assignment was command chief master sergeant for the 11th Air Force at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

His message to the PACAF airmen under his wing is twofold: Do your best in whatever job the Air Force gives you, and take care of people, including your leaders, subordinates, self and family.

The airmen he’s met so far in PACAF “are focused on the mission at hand,” McKinley said during an interview at Misawa. “In the past we’d hear a lot of complaints about ‘me, me, me — what can you do to take care of me?’ We’re not hearing that now. The — no-kidding — things we hear about now are things that affect our mission and the future of our Air Force.”

Here’s what McKinley said on some popular topics:

New BDUsMcKinley said he expects the new Air Force uniform to be rolled out servicewide in 2007. He noted that unlike the current battle dress utility uniform, the new one includes female sizes. Questions still unanswered, he said, include “whether or not we’re going to have patches, what kind of head cover, along with the boot. I’m sure the goal of our boots is to have boots that we don’t have to polish. We’re going to have a very functional uniform that is going to save our airmen a tremendous amount of money.” The apparel is supposed to be made of wash-and-wear material, saving airmen from having to starch or dry-clean the uniform.

New PT uniformMcKinley said airmen have concerns about quality, fit, wear-date and usage rules. He told them an Air Force uniform board is meeting Oct. 21 to resolve, among other questions: “How to wear it, where to wear it, what gear you can wear with it. If you’re wearing the PT uniform in the gym, whether or not you can wear workout gloves, and whether or not you can have headphones when you’re working out.” The uniform is available, McKinley said, at all PACAF bases, but the Air Force has not set a mandatory wear-date.

Physical fitnessMcKinley said the Air Force continues to stress the importance of physical fitness. “I think in some way, shape or form, fitness will be evaluated on our performance reports,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how that’s going to be right now, but the message is clear to our airmen across the Air Force that physical fitness is very important.”

AEFWhether the current Aerospace Expeditionary Force construct will be tweaked remains to be seen, McKinley said. “Our AEF cycle right now is a great success,” he said. “We always have a few variations to it, and some people may deploy a little bit more than others, but I think the other branches of service would probably look at our AEF cycle with admiration because what we provide to our airmen is predictability and stability. Family members know when we plan on deploying and when we’re going to return and we stick to that pretty well.”

Education benefitsAirmen have asked McKinley whether the Air Force’s 100-percent tuition assistance program may be a casualty of budget constraints. “I’ve heard nothing to say that we’re going to reduce our tuition assistance,” he said, “because that’s very important to us to continue providing that so our airmen can get the education they want. I can’t say down the line that it’s going to stay 100 percent forever, but I do know that we are committed to try to keep the 100 percent tuition for our airmen.”

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