Yokota Air Base, Japan --
Every week, thousands of guests fill the parade grounds at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to see their loved ones make the transition from civilian to Airman. As the sea of blue crosses the line, with pride on full display, every trainee stands tall alongside their fellow flight mates, each raising their right hands to take the oath of enlistment with family and friends bearing witness. With the oath taken and their transformation complete, the journey and life of each Airmen is just beginning.
For Chief Master Sgt. John Payne, 374th Airlift Wing command chief out of Yokota Air Base, Japan, that graduation is monumental when it comes to any Airman’s career. It is the common bond that serves as the foundation we build on as we progress through the years.
“While we have all long since graduated, Yokota is no different from that training environment, we have to work as a team,” said Payne. “Just as we each struggled with something, whether it was folding socks or drill, with the help of those around us in our flight, each with a different background and set of skills, we worked together to be better as a unit. In having that common goal to succeed and to graduate, we came together and became a family. As your new command chief, I want to be a force that helps facilitate that type of cohesion across our installation.
“In order to achieve that level of cohesion it really just boils down to investing in one another. Throughout my career, through seven AFSC’s and eight promotions all the way to Chief, I have had success individually and as a unit because of investing. Early on in my career, it was my investing in learning my role in the mission and buying into leadership’s goals. What allowed me to grow was my supervisor’s and leadership’s investment in me to be the next supervisor, NCO, SNCO, etc. Pushing me to be better and grow not only as a person -- but as an Airman.
“I need everyone on this team from top to bottom to understand the importance of investing time in each other because that is how we facilitate growth. It is that two way street that simultaneously allows years of knowledge and experience to flow down to our next generation of leaders.”
Payne’s belief of investing in one another has shaped his life’s philosophy. He believes that every minute invested in another person’s life will have a year’s impact in the future. The philosophy of 15, 30, 60 minutes can change someone’s life for the next 15, 30, 60 years of their life.
“I believe it is vital to take advantage of, create, and own moments in life,” Payne said. “I use the phrase of 15, 30, 60 minutes that you spend with someone can change the next 15, 30, 60 years of their life because that’s how powerful investing in each other can be. I am a true believer in that.
In an effort to begin his own investment process into Yokota’s Airmen, Payne held an all call shortly after arriving to speak with the three enlisted tiers with the purpose of understanding the issues that affect each one.
“The truth is that the dynamics are different among each tier, each with their own needs,” Payne said. “In meeting with our Airmen split in tiers, I hoped to eliminate any potential barriers in the communication process, creating a free flow of ideas of a better tomorrow, straight from the source. This was my initial investment so to speak, understanding what you need from me.
“As my team and I get to work to address some of those needs, I need everyone to think about what they can do to invest in the people around them. Whether it be at home, the shop or even the neighborhood, I need your help in making Team Yokota better than the way we found it. Use that 15, 30, 60 model to make an impact. Use your strengths to cover other’s weaknesses and vice versa. Just like in BMT, work to be that cohesive unit that has each other’s backs.
In using that 15, 30, 60 philosophy, Payne hopes Yokota will come together as the family he knows they are.
“I can promise you I will always be all in on each and every one of you,” Payne said. “I say this not because I’m your command chief, but because that’s who I am and that’s what the Air Force and its Airmen mean to me. You are all my family.
“As a family, I am going to be real with you. It’s not always going to be great but we will get through it together. There will be tough discussions but there is also going to be a lot of love and a lot of caring too. At the end of the day, we need to be there for each other because that’s what families do. Now that I’m here at Yokota, I know how lucky I am to have this be my immediate family.
“I can’t wait to get to work for you.”