ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. | The command chief of an installation leads its enlisted force and serves as the primary advisor to the commander on matters concerning morale, welfare, war-fighting effectiveness, operational utilization and professional development.
So, it takes a certain kind of Airman to lead more than 2,500 Ellsworth Raiders.
Chief Master Sgt. Adam Vizi and his wife, Gina, arrived at Ellsworth Dec. 10, 2016, with Vizi assuming command chief duties right away.
Before arriving, he served as the chief enlisted manager for the 607th Air Support Operations Group at Osan Air Base, South Korea. Vizi previously served as a Joint Terminal Attack Controller weapons officer and an instructor and evaluator at the unit and major command levels.
Col. Gentry Boswell, 28th Bomb Wing commander, introduced Vizi at a commander’s call in January; however, we wanted to delve a little deeper into who the new 28th Bomb Wing command chief really is.
Sergeant Staker: Tell me a little about yourself — where are you from, how did you grow up, how long have you been in the Air Force?
Chief Vizi: I am one of four kids, I have three sisters and am originally from Youngstown, Ohio. My sisters used to pick on me a lot but I think that’s where I get my toughness from — being beat up by girls. I spent two years in college and struggled with classes. And after I finished my English 101 class, I was tired of wasting my parents’ money, so I went into the recruiter’s office and asked how soon can you get me out of here? A month later, in 1994, I was in basic training.
I wanted to do something different with my life, I needed some discipline, direction — not that I wasn’t getting it from my folks, but I thought I knew everything and then realized quickly that I didn’t, so I wanted some structure.
SS: How was the recruiting process for you?
CV: Initially I tried to be a combat controller and spent about two months going through the pararescue pipeline. After an unsuccessful attempt at that, I realized that something else was in store for me. I went to talk with the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) recruiter at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas, and went to Hurlburt Field, Florida, in January 1995.
SS: Did you intend on making the Air Force a career?
CV: At first I did not, to be honest. I was in Germany weighing my options, kind of like our informed decision class here at Ellsworth, and thought — I’m going to take the Montgomery GI Bill, go back to my home town, and try to finish my college degree. But life happens.
Like I tell everybody, have a plan. I put in an application to do special duty — technical school instructor — and I eventually got hired to be an instructor down at Hurlburt Field, so that prompted me to reenlist. And after that experience down at the tech school I was all in, plus 9/11 happened and we got to go and do bad things to bad people.
Also, another event that happened was I met my wife. We became a team at that point, and I’ve been moving her around the world. We’ve been doing awesome things in both the TACP community and now as a command chief. I also have to commend her on her service, and even though she’s not wearing the uniform she still serves. But she was one of the deciding factors on why we continue to serve. She supports me in doing what I do, and it’s awesome to have a good support team.
SS: Tell me a little more about being a TACP and what that entailed…
CV: One of my main missions was to advise ground force commanders on the capability the Air Force brings, both kinetically and non-kinetically. It’s taken me all over the world. My first assignment was to Fort Drum, New York, and while I was there I had the opportunity to go to multiple training exercises, I also got to go to the jungle operations training course in Panama, which was an amazing opportunity to go and learn how to survive and operate under triple canopy in jungle-dense terrain.
(Editor’s note: The chief has also been to South Korea three times, Germany, Hawaii, Florida, Colorado and Nevada.)
While stationed in Hawaii, I went to Headquarters Pacific Command where I got to do some staff work, which was very eye opening when you’re organizing, training and equipping forces assigned to a Major Command. That was very rewarding to me.
(Editor’s note: Vizi was also selected to become one of seven initial cadre members to develop the curriculum at the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. He was the first superintendent to go through the course and to push the first enlisted weapons officers through the school.)
Just to take it a step further, as a TACP controlling air strikes is a very detailed, finite procedure where you work with any asset that drops bombs in a kinetic environment — bombers, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, F-16s, A-10s, F-15s, AC-130s. Anything that puts bombs into close proximity to friendly forces, that’s where the JTACs come into play. I’ve gotten to do it in multiple training environments, but have also gotten to do it in combat.
SS: Why did you become a command chief?
CV: I wanted to become a command chief because I feel that every Airman has a story, and mine’s kind of different. Through my passing’s with people, they’ve asked me — tell me about TACP. I feel as a command chief, I have a good starting point to get through to Airmen, coming from a battlefield Airman perspective. I think it fosters good two-way communication.
As a command chief, you get exposure to First Term Airman Center, Airman Leadership School, and other professional military education environments — that’s one of the things I’m passionate about is developing people and just making people better at what they do.
SS: Whenever you found out you were coming to Ellsworth to be our command chief, what did you think about that? Were you excited, nervous?
CV: Colonel Boswell called and hired me after interviewing me. I was kind of shocked at first. It was the first interview I had taken to be a command chief, and gratefully Colonel Boswell asked if I would be his command chief. I was absolutely honored and said 100 percent yes.
I was excited for the opportunity, and then started looking up the things that this wing does and the B-1. It’s a good fit for me because I’ve controlled B-1s in both training and combat. My learning curve has been steep coming from a TACP background, we don’t have Maintenance Groups and Mission Support Groups that support us because we’re normally on Army forts. It’s been amazing getting to see our folks and hearing how passionate they are about what it is that they do.
(Editor’s note: A feature story detailing the chief’s first-hand, battlefield experience with the B-1 bomber will be posted to www.ellsworth.af.mil.)
SS: What are your priorities as a command chief?
CV: My main priorities are to advise the wing commander on morale, welfare and proper utilization of the enlisted force, and also to foster and develop successful teams. I’m a big fan of joint professional military education, and Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, who is now the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has a program that’s called Backbone University. One of my initiatives for approval is to take this two-day event based off the NCO and petty officer handbook, which is called the backbone, and focus on our senior airmen through technical sergeants. That’s going to my primary target audience for this PME environment, which is our backbone. That’s where we develop our replacements. It’s also aligning with Gen. David Goldfein’s, Air Force Chief of Staff, priority of creating a more joint-minded force.
SS: What are you most looking forward to doing or learning as our command chief?
CV: One of the things I’m most looking forward to is developing a culture of trust where Airmen can feel wholeheartedly like they will be able to talk to any NCO, senior enlisted leader, or officer and know that our team trusts each other. I am going to do that through teamwork, face-to-face interaction, and getting out to hear our Airmen’s stories. Every Airman has a story and I want to hear it. I really do.
You don’t get change or buy-in unless you have the voice of the majority, which is our junior enlisted. The enlisted force on this base is the predominant of our folks, so I want to hear what’s on our Airmen’s minds.
SS: If you could give them any advice what would it be?
CV: First I would tell all of our people — Airman, officer, civilian, spouse — be good to each other. Also, be the best that you can be where you are. If you’re not proactive in your job, then I challenge each and every one of our people when you come here to Team Ellsworth, I want you to be better at something. Go out of here better at something than when you came in.
I know a lot of folks focus on the social aspect; if you’re going to be social, do things that are going to positively impact your career. Don’t drink and drive, have a plan, hold each other accountable, utilize safe ride. It should be part of your going in plan but it shouldn’t be your only. I just want to alleviate our DUIs and alcohol related incidents. If we start treating each other with respect and dignity and start holding each other accountable, those things will go away.
SS: Anything else to add?
CV: Invest in yourself, thrift savings plan, 401 — have a little bit of coin in your pocket. I understand 10 percent of our enlisted force go on to do 20 years. So to our junior members, the mass population of our base, I would challenge you to invest in yourself. Education, money, family, whatever it’s going to be.
(Editor’s note: The chief recently attended a basic military training graduation, where he saw 800 new Airmen who were fired up and ready to move forward with their careers.)
Don’t forget that feeling you had when you graduated basic training. Then you go to tech school, and then you come to your base and you kind of lose that fire. I don’t want folks to lose that fire.
I’m going to challenge them to remember that they’re part of a profession of arms, that they’re in the military, and we wear this uniform for a reason — to defend our constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. We all take the same oath. Also, to reinvigorate what it means to be an NCO and lead airmen, and have good, professional relationships with people.
I want to foster that and get people back to the basics, and to remember why we serve. When we graduated basic training, that fire in our gut. I want to be part of something bigger than me. That’s the other thing we need to hurdle as a team, is it isn’t about you, especially as an NCO or senior NCO. It’s not about you. It’s about Airmen. It’s about the team.