The 86th Airlift Wing welcomed its new command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Frank H. Batten III, last month.
As the wing’s highest enlisted leader, Batten advises the commander and senior leaders on military readiness, mission effectiveness, professional development, morale, welfare, training and good order and discipline of the wing’s personnel. He ensures the commander’s policies and guidance are known, understood and enforced.
Batten recently sat down with Ramstein public affairs to talk about his views on the 86th AW’s role in the Air Force mission, education and the things that shaped him as a person and leader.
What does it mean to you to become the new 86th AW command chief?
I’m excited to be here at Ramstein as the new 86th AW command chief. It’s rewarding for my family and I to be picked to come to Ramstein as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe team after completing my recent tour in Afghanistan. Our goal for some time was to get stationed in USAFE, so to get the job as the wing command chief here is a phenomenal way to accomplish that goal.
Since arriving, Team Ramstein has welcomed us wholeheartedly. All the wings, headquarters and the Airmen of the 86th AW team came forward and did a great job welcoming us to the base. It’s been wonderful, and we’re thankful for all that was done to welcome us to the team.
What are your most important priorities and goals you want to achieve while you are here?
My priorities and goals align with what the wing has for its priorities. The first is to maintain readiness to accomplish the mission and to ensure we’re providing premiere combat airlift. The next would be to make sure we’re developing professional Airmen. That’s a mainstay at any location. Also, as I get to know my higher headquarters and NATO partners here I want to help develop and strengthen those relationships. Finally, I want to improve the quality of life for all Airmen here in the Kaiserslautern Military Community.
Along the lines of developing Airmen, what would you suggest Airmen do to be successful?
In my mind, it’s easy for an Airman to be successful in our service. It comes down to three things that we’re all taught regardless of how we entered into the Air Force: our core values. If you come to work every day with them in mind, you’re going to be a person of integrity, you’re going to put the service before yourself, and everything you do will be done to the best of your ability with excellence. If you do that, you’re going to be successful in our Air Force.
Also, when people say they’re going to come up with a new plan to help Airmen succeed, I counter by saying we don’t need a new plan because the plan in place works. I say we need leaders and supervisors to provide clear guidance and enforce standards. If Airmen do what is asked of them in the performance of their daily mission in the manner we expect them to act, then individually and collectively we’ll succeed.
People probably ask all the time why you enlisted, but why did you keep re-enlisting?
It’s different each time. To enlist, it was to join the Air Force and serve my country. My dad was in the Air Force and retired after 24 years. Plus, there were the benefits that came with service. My first re-enlistment was because I still felt I hadn’t accomplished what I thought I needed to do with regards to education, and it was still a great job. Then it evolved into the next enlistment and the next enlistment. Then my final enlistment, which was just a few years back, was because I continue to love what I do, and I think I still have a part to play in developing our Air Force and helping it succeed.
The reason may have changed each time, but each enlistment was about me being more of an Airman. The Air Force became more of a part of me each time I re-enlisted. I don’t mean that I wasn’t an Airman before, but when most Airmen first come into the Air Force they relate to it as their job. It’s a means; it’s a paycheck. When you get off of work, it’s almost like turning off that light switch and you are you. When you come back into work or physical training, you’re an Airman again. What I mean when I say you become more of an Airman is there comes a time in your life you realize that switch doesn’t turn off anymore. When I go home I like to think I would just be Frank Batten, but I’m not. I’m Chief Batten, and I conduct myself in the manner expected of an Airman.
You finished your bachelor’s degree last year. What is your stance on education?
I think education is important. Whether it is professional military education, self-improvement classes, college courses or whatever else, continuing to educate yourself is important to your personal and professional development. For most of us in the enlisted ranks, our primary means for education is through a Community College of the Air Force degree. I did that early in my career because it was required in order to advance. Later on, I continued to take classes because it was something I wanted to do. I wanted to continue to advance toward the goal of earning my bachelor’s degree.
It’s important to know that getting my degree wasn’t just about getting a block checked. It helped me primarily to think more critically, how to problem solve and how to write. As far as our Airmen continuing to educate themselves, I think it’s important. While some will say you don’t need a degree to get promoted, I say you need the education to be a good, well-rounded leader.
How was the transition from doing work in the field (being the Airman) to a leader role?
I think it’s a challenging transition to go on being individually task-focused to being in a role that must focus organizational tasks to achieve mission success for the group, the wing, for our deployed partners downrange and for the Air Force overall to provide global reach and global power.
Throughout my career, I’ve had leaders and mentors either ask me or tell me, “I need you to do this.” If I balked at it, it was because I felt maybe I wasn’t ready for it. They would push me to do it, and it always turned out well. They would continue to push me into areas I felt uncomfortable or maybe a little overwhelmed because that helped me to grow as a leader.
Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente, 86th AW commander, and other Air Force leaders are keen on Airmen being innovative as we are moving toward a smaller force. How do you encourage innovation?
Part of it is there has to be a two-way street. General Mordente, myself and the Air Force are very open to innovative Airmen and giving new looks at old processes, but you need that at all levels.
So, it starts with good supervision that allows open communication. Airmen must be willing and able to communicate their ideas and thoughts to their peers, supervisors and leaders. Some of the lag we experience in innovation is when Airmen with great ideas are not
willing to tell people. They may not communicate because they think it’s not going to change or change very little. I would bet they would be pleasantly surprised if they brought their good idea forward.
Innovation, much like any other endeavor requiring creativity and ingenuity, comes back to relationship building. I’ve always tried to instill a good relationship between me and my peers, subordinates and supervisors to enable two-way communication. I think I’m able to communicate with Airmen, and in return they feel they can come to me with issues, problems and ideas.
With the Air Force moving toward a smaller force, how would you suggest Airmen prepare themselves in case they have to separate?
First, they should take advantage of every program, every benefit, every opportunity they have while they are still in the Air Force to start with the Transition Assistance Program. Get with our personnel over at the Airman & Family Readiness Center. Get their resumes set. Make sure their families are taken care of medically. Prepare for it. I think you should always prepare for the worst case scenario with the hope that it won’t be that way. Take advantage of the programs and assistance we provide through the many helping agencies we have on base.
Bottom line is we want Airmen who leave the service to be a successful part of society. We’re all Airmen at the end of the day, and until you separate from the Air Force — some for the rest of their lives — we’re going to take care of you.
What advice would you give to those who will stay in?
I think the forethought of every Airman should be that serving our country in the Air Force is a privilege, not a right. It’s a privilege to be able to serve in this uniform for our country. You have to do everything possible to come to work every day and embody the Air Force core values. In doing so, you will be successful and continue to serve in the Air Force.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I’m happy to be part of the team, and I’m looking forward to serving with the Airmen here at Ramstein and making a difference in our wing and the command.