Chalk Talk: Chattin' with the Chief

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Duncan McElroy
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
(This interview is Part 1 of an open-ended series featuring question-and-answer sessions with members of Team Keesler.)

I recently had an opportunity to sit down with the 81st Training Wing's new senior enlisted member, Command Chief Master Sgt. Harry Hutchinson.

Hutchinson arrived at Keesler in January, but watching him interact with Brig. Gen. Patrick Higby, 81st TRW commander, and Col. Dennis Scarborough, 81st TRW vice commander, a casual observer may think the trio has been working together for years. From attending public functions together to borrowing each other's glasses during meetings, usually with some friendly banter thrown in, Hutchinson is settling in.

Some people join the Air Force because they want to be a pilot. Some join fight for their country or to better themselves. Why did you join?

Hutchinson: I've been in the Air Force for 27 years now, and my motivation for joining the service was the opportunities it presented. As a young guy, I was first drawn in by the commercials -- the challenge and adventure they showed really appealed to me. So after doing some research and talking to a recruiter, this big picture of adventure was painted for me. I wanted that adventure. I wanted all those opportunities. But beyond all that, the most important part of it was that I also wanted to try and make a difference - to serve my country and give back.

What's the biggest difference between Airmen today and Airmen 20 years ago?

Hutchinson: I don't think there's an inherent difference between the two, but I think the challenges posed to the Airmen of today are what make it seem like there's a difference. When I joined, we had nearly double the number of Airmen we have today. The Air Force operates on a much smaller budget than it did 27 years ago.

Today, Airmen are challenged to be more efficient and effective at what they do, but I don't think it's about being able to do more with less. We have to adapt and become more efficient in how we do business. It's all about matching resources to our requirements.

Tell me about the biggest challenge you faced as an Airman, and how did you overcome it?

Hutchinson: The biggest challenge for me, from a personal standpoint, was adjusting to the military standards and discipline. It was my first time being away from home. To be honest, it was shedding that 'me' concept and accepting the 'us' mindset. It's all about learning how to be a team player and embracing Airmanship.

What's your favorite part about being a chief?

Hutchinson: I'm blessed to have been given the opportunity to be a chief, let alone a command chief. I think my favorite part is the impact I can make on the Airmen I work for. By working on policies and programs that directly affect the Airmen, I can pay it forward.

Twenty-something years ago, there were some NCOs, senior NCOs, and officers that believed in me. They helped set my path by guiding and molding me. I made a promise to pay that forward, and the position I'm in today allows me to do that. I have a responsibility as a leader to help develop future leaders.- Being a chief gives me a much bigger platform to develop and encourage, and ultimately help shape the future of the Air Force.

I've heard you talk about the 'three P's' -- could you explain this concept?

Hutchinson: I subscribe to the idea of these three P's: pride, passion and professionalism. When I first became a senior NCO, a mentor of mine told me that we're all driven by something different. What motivates me may not motivate you. So as a senior NCO, you have to say and do things that resonate with both you and your Airmen.

So, based on my upbringing and family values, having pride in who you are is important -- pride in being an Airman. You have to have passion for what you do daily, because if you don't love what you do, how could you inspire others to do the same? For professionalism, the commitment we made is important to uphold; we wear the nation's cloth because we've pledged a service to each other.

How do you apply these three P's to your daily life?

Hutchinson: I apply these three P's because I firmly believe that leadership is earned every day. Every single day is an opportunity to prove to yourself and your peers whether you're an airman basic, chief or general. Every morning, I get up and tell myself to operate with pride, keep that passion and be that consummate professional.

Okay, speaking of passion, what's your favorite workout?

Hutchinson:  I love kettle bells and free weights. I run, but the weights are what I'm really drawn to. Working out and lifting weights is relaxing; it's always been a stress relief for me. The fitness centers on base are great. And, as a bonus, what other organization not only gives you the time to work out, but pays you to take care of yourself?

You've been here more than a month now. How do you like the Gulf Coast?

Hutchinson: I'm ecstatic to be here. I love the Gulf Coast! The Airmen I've met so far have been great, and our civilian partners and the community are outstanding.

Mustache March is upon us . . . are you ready?

Hutchinson: Oh, I'm ready for it -- I'll be participating. I've done so the last couple years, and I encourage other Airmen to participate too, as long as they stay within regulation. Sometimes what we do is stressful, and we need to find a way to have a good time. Breathe and enjoy the moment, with or without a mustache.

Got anything else for me, Chief?

Hutchinson: I'm absolutely happy to be here -- it's an honor to be serving as a command chief where I can have such a tremendous impact on so many Airmen, more than 20,000 a year. That's not something I take lightly. I'm charged up.

And with a positive mindset like that, we can accomplish anything. That's my challenge to Airmen out there -love what you do and respect what others do.