Walking into his office it can be easy to get the impression you are about to meet someone who embodies Air Force experience, evident by the various memorabilia scattered throughout the room. He’s been an aircraft maintainer. He’s been a military training instructor. He’s even been a non-commissioned officer academy commandant. Now, his desk plaque reads “command chief.”
What’s unique is, just like his overall Air Force experience, his command chief experience has been varied as well. In the last 20 months he’s gone from command chief of a wing, a numbered Air Force, and now, he is known as Chief Master Sgt. Phillip L. Easton, Command Chief Master Sergeant, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa.
As the USAFE-AFAFRICA command chief, Easton is responsible for a total of 21,000 enlisted force personnel and all matters affecting their readiness, training, professional development and effective utilization. Additionally, he coordinates with the headquarters’ staff, commanders, and senior personnel on administration and implementation of command policy and directs enlisted theater security engagement and building partnership capacity in an area of responsibility that comprises 104 countries in support of both U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command.
What his vast experience has taught him is that as a senior leader, it is vital that his priorities compliment his senior leaders to be successful. For that reason, Easton has put much time and dedication into choosing his three priorities which will compliment those of our Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and USAFE-AFAFRICA Commander, Gen. Tod D. Wolters.
Readiness, personal and professional development, and caring for one another will be where this command chief’s priorities stand.
With an ever changing environment, Easton knows requiring and enabling readiness within the command must be a priority. Airmen in the command must transition from an assurance to deterrence posture in the European command and be prepared to support lines of effort of both EUCOM and AFRICOM.
“We have to be ready when called upon,” Easton said. “We’re building relationships throughout the MAJCOM, AFRICOM and EUCOM to ensure we are communicating what we have through training and developmental opportunities in a joint environment because that’s how you create not only joint warfighters, but joint warfighters who are equipped and prepared,” he stated.
To even further enhance readiness, Easton will also focus on building relationships between the headquarters and combatant command staff and building partnership capacity through senior leader engagement and bilateral exchanges.
In regard to his second priority of personal and professional development, Easton is passionate about building a team of strong leaders prepared to mentor, mold and develop Airmen, and will institute a plethora of tier-focused programs to grow Airmen of all ranks.
Just a few of these programs include Atlantic Stripe, which was previously instituted in USAFE by now Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright and was set to begin its first iteration May 8, including a squadron superintendent course, a senior enlisted leader summit, and development training opportunities for spouses of all tiers as well.
“Events such as these give our NCOs a whole sight picture of how important the job they are doing is,” Easton said. “It took me nine years as an aircraft maintainer to find my purpose. Whether you are working in the dining facility, on the flightline or a defender at the gate, you must realize how your job is a chain reaction. It effects the wing, which then impacts the mission of the MAJCOM that further provides resources to the combatant commanders. When Airmen understand their purpose, they become inspired, and when inspired because they understand how they fit in the mission, they become committed.”
Last, Easton will make a commitment to prioritize caring for one another.
“We are going to take care of each other by focusing on resiliency,” he said. “Our Airmen, civilians, spouses…everyone. These are our greatest resources and we have to ensure they are building upon the domains of mental, physical, social, and spiritual fitness which are core to the Comprehensive Airman Fitness program.”
Easton will look to showcasing best practices and programs which enhance CAF programs throughout the wings to be incorporated across the MAJCOM.
“I’m a firm believer that if you take care of your people, they will take care of the mission,” Easton said.
As Easton completed giving insight into his three priorities of readiness, personal and professional development, and caring for one another, he made clear what his USAFE-AFAFRICA enlisted force can expect of him during the upcoming years.
“I want Airmen to know they can expect a deliberate focus on these priorities from me. I’ll make sure that these priorities work with and enhance our trust, teamwork and training so that they are always prepared to execute their mission, that they are taken care of professionally and that they and their families are taken care of personally.”