Third time command chief offers philosophy to Airmen

by Maj. Paul D. Baldwin
3rd Air Force Public Affairs

When Chief Master Sgt. Craig Adams graduated from high school in 1985 in Tiffin, Ohio, he spent a little more than a year deciding his job opportunities and college options. Then one day a friend came to his house and asked if he wanted to go to the Air Force recruiter. His brother had already been in the Air Force for almost two years and seemed to enjoy it. So, Adams agreed to go.

“Out of high school I had no idea I was coming in the Air Force,” said Adams, the new 3rd Air Force command chief master sergeant since November. “The funny part is I’m the one who ended up coming in the Air Force and my buddy didn’t. And here I am 24 years later and it’s been the best thing that ever happened to me.”

The position here is Adams’ third time as a command chief. He previously served as a command chief for the 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and for the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

Adams traveled all around the world after leaving Tiffin, Ohio, a city with a population just under 20,000. In that time, his success has come from being ready, loyal and doing his best every single day. This outlook is what he believes makes the Air Force great, he said.

“I think it’s extremely important that all Airmen are ready,” he said.

For Adams, this includes being the technical expert, keeping training requirements current, taking care of personal affairs, being physically fit and completing professional military education.

Adams said he believes being ready is important for the Air Force to execute its airpower mission.

“We need to be a full up round,” the chief said. “Airmen must be ready to deploy and must minimize potential life stressors.”

The ready Airman is also loyal to fellow service members, Adams said. The Air Force calls this being a wingman, and the chief is adamant that taking care of oneself, one’s family and other Airmen is derived from courage.

“Being a wingman is much more than just being a best friend or a buddy,” he said. “Loyalty is about knowing when to engage when things may get uncomfortable. It’s about having the courage to step in when something is unsafe, to ask for help for yourself, your family or for somebody else if necessary.”

One would think Adams’ success in the Air Force came from some huge turning point in his career, a once in a lifetime opportunity, or by being in the right place at the right time. But this is not the case, the chief said. His career path in the Air Force was really made possible by doing his best every day.

“Do your best every single day. It’s all you can do, but you have to do it,” Adams said. “Not every day is going to be a banner day.  However, if you hang up your uniform at the end of your shift and you can say you did your best, then I think that’s a lot to be proud of.”

Adams has seen a lot of changes in the Air Force throughout his 24 years of service.

“One thing is for certain: change is constant,” Adams said. “Change is a challenge we all face and will continue to face in the future.”

But even though change is the norm, Adams said he believes the current generation of Airmen is ready for whatever comes next.

“The reason we continue to succeed and remain the best Air Force in the world is because of the contributions of every Airman down to the most junior member,” the chief said. “We have the best we’ve ever had right now. And we’re the best we’ve ever been. Even with a smaller force we’re smarter and we’re motivated. No matter what is thrown at our Airmen they are getting it done.”

As it turns out, Adams’ brother is still in the Air Force and a fellow chief. One begins to wonder if there wasn’t something in the water in Northern Ohio after all. Adams’ parents have a lot to be proud of.

But Adams is hesitant to take too much credit. He insists he got here by doing the little things and staying ready, with the support from mentors, leaders, family and friends.

“I’ve never held the key to the next door,” he said. “I just try to do my best every day. I literally take everything one step at a time.”

Borrowing a quote from a friend, Adams said this about his service: “There was a time when I was in the Air Force, and then one day I realized the Air Force was in me. It’s changed my life, been my career and I feel very fortunate.”