Editor’s note: Chief Master Sgt. Martin Klukas is the new 3rd Air Force command chief master sergeant. He recently took time to answer questions about his position, his expectations of the enlisted corps and his leadership philosophy.
***image1***Where are you from?
Coleman, Wisconsin, about 40 miles north of Green Bay.
Who inspired you to join the Air Force?
My dad served as a B-17 radio operator/gunner in WWII; I knew it would make him proud for me to join the Air Force.
Was there a specific supervisor or mentor who helped you reach your goals?
I owe a great debt of gratitude to all those who taught me, especially to pay myself first and to invest in the future.
There are so many great leaders, and every one took care of developing me professionally and personally. They created an environment for the team to succeed, and that’s something we can continue to give supervisors and Airmen.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I like traveling with my bride Peggy and our black lab Ruger, hiking and being around water.
Is there something that Airmen might be surprised to know about you?
I’m afraid of heights. I know that sounds strange because for me jumping out of airplanes is an easy day, but being on a rooftop or tower makes my entire body shake. Jumping out of airplanes is a different perspective. And one key thing in the development process is tackling your fears.
What skills do you bring that will help you as the 3rd AF command chief?
I’d like to think I’m a team builder, working to get the team stronger by creating an environment that’s conducive to people growing, to people feeling that they are part of something bigger than themselves.
Allowing people to excel. Allowing folks the opportunity. If you give young people the task, conditions and the standards, then support them, they’ll always achieve something bigger than themselves. Inspiring them to have the courage to step up to the plate, even if they fail – supporting and challenging them are key.
What is your leadership philosophy?
Take the hard right over the easy wrong, and lead with enthusiasm. If you can get them to come join the team and pull harder on the rope, that’s what it’s all about. We have to complete the mission and sometimes you need the extra power, the extra drive to get the mission done. And that separates the good leadership from the great leadership.
What are your goals as the 3rd AF command chief?
Help the warriors of the 3rd AF get better, faster, stronger. I want to help people get the transformation piece of the puzzle, that we are the execution part, that we are the combat arm of air and space power in U.S. Air Forces in Europe.
What are you looking forward to here at USAFE and Ramstein?
I’m looking forward to learning more about the vast mission set of USAFE. That, plus we have so much talent – I want to get out there and to know the challenges so I can help Lt. Gen. (Rod) Bishop make this team stronger.
What’s the most important responsibility of a command chief?
It’s keeping the pulse of the enlisted force and helping make the team more effective and efficient.
What are your views on Airman welfare and morale?
I think you can provide Airmen all the amenities in the world but that doesn’t replace having someone lead them who inspires them and makes them feel like part of something bigger than themselves. That affects the morale and welfare more than shiny new facilities.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
We all joined the military for various reasons. It doesn’t matter in the end what those reasons are, just that you be the best that you can be. To challenge ourselves – that’s why we serve.