by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — — When he is not at work, you might find Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey, 21st Space Wing command chief, writing songs, playing guitar, spending time outdoors with his wife of 22 years, Connie, and his children – Robby, 21, Jacob, 18, Whitney, 15 and Olivia, 11 – or someplace quiet where he can wet a fishing line.
He likes all types of music but has a special interest in Christian contemporary, country-western and blues. He was a voice major in college, loves the scenery and people of Colorado, and on his first day here, he was on a mission to find the mall for his 15-year-old daughter, Whitney. His father served in the military during the Vietnam War. And, although he was a singer in college, he had an interest of being a military police officer. He enlisted in 1986.
Chief Sealey, 43, has been on the job as 21st SW command chief since Dec. 1, and comes from Andrews Air Force Base, Md., where he served as command chief for the 89th Airlift Wing. As the 21st SW command chief, he advises Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st SW commander, on issues affecting the health, welfare, morale and use of the wing’s nearly 1,600-person enlisted force.
Chief Sealey began his Air Force career as a security forces Airman with assignments in Japan, South Carolina, United Kingdom, Germany, New Mexico, Kuwait and Maryland. He is a U.S. Air Force-level recipient of the prestigious Lance P. Sijan Leadership Award. Three weeks into his new post at Peterson, Chief Sealey reflected on his career, his goals and his love of the Air Force.
Q. Why did you join the Air Force?
A. I just wanted a challenge. I had a desire to serve my country. While I was in college, I was in the Army Reserve as a military policeman. Once I decided I wanted to go fulltime military, active duty, I decided I would rather do that in the Air Force.
Q. Did you plan on making the Air Force a career?
A. I planned on just coming in and doing the GI Bill thing. But, I got in, and I fell in love with it. I’m career security forces by trade. It’s the camaraderie – just being part of something.
Q. What has been your most memorable moment in the Air Force?
A. It was actually this past August watching my son graduate basic training. (Robby, 21, is an airman first class stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., as a firefighter.) I know that is more of a father thing than an Air Force thing, but watching my son graduate basic training, that was powerful.
Q. How did you feel being asked to become a command chief?
A. As far as doing the role, it’s intimidating, everybody is watching. When I first started doing it, I went through a period of, am I even worthy of doing something like this – to lead and represent Airmen? After a while, you get the hang of it, taking care of everybody.
Q. What is your approach to leadership?
A. I am a firm believer in servant leadership, not only because of my personal beliefs, also growing up in security forces where you are a servant first, you are a first responder taking care of people and putting everyone’s needs first. I think that is something that was instilled in me very early on. If I had to sum up my leadership philosophy into one word, it would be serve.
My job is to let Airmen know what it is that they bring to the fight or the mission, and how important that is. A lot of time, young Airmen don’t understand, ‘what is it that I do that is so important?’ It’s my job to articulate that to them. I view myself as the voice and ears of the Airmen – making sure they are represented.
A lot of people think, you get to a certain point and you’ve attained and that’s it and they have reached the end. It’s the beginning as far as I’m concerned. I am at this point in my career, not so that everybody else can take care of me; I’m at this point in my career so I can take care of them.
Q. What are three priorities you have set for your time at Peterson?
A. I would like to work on standards, whether that is appearance or whether that is adherence to Air Force Instruction.
The second thing is a sense of community. Peterson already has a fantastic sense of community. This year is the Year of the Air Force Family. When you hear that, the first thing that comes to mind is a wife, a husband and 2.3 kids. The Air Force family is more than that. The Air Force family is everybody – the civilian workforce, the single Airmen and the married Airmen. There is no greater time to want to enhance our focus on community at Peterson Air Force Base.
Lastly, I would like to work with our professional development team, whether that is with (First Term Airmen Center) or (noncommissioned officer) professional enhancement, and putting emphasis on enlisted heritage.
Q. What do you expect of your senior noncommissioned officers?
A. Their very best. We have an obligation to those young Airmen who have been put in our charge. I expect the very best of our senior NCOs to mentor and guide and train our young enlisted force, that is the future and I expect our senior NCO corps to give their very best in meeting that challenge.
Q. What is your message to the Airmen?
A. They need to have balance in their lives. Balance comes from being the whole person. We get so inundated with doing the job; we tend not to focus on family and our own professional development. In the Airman’s Creed, we talk about our legacy – the legacy of the American enlisted force is something I take very seriously. I had the opportunity, while at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, to go to the Ukraine and teach military police tactics to the Ukrainian military. And, every single time after class, they wanted to talk about our enlisted force. They were so impressed by the leadership roles we put our enlisted forces in, our development and how we take care of our enlisted. The biggest thing they couldn’t get their minds around was how much responsibility we give our enlisted force. I think it’s our job as enlisted to ensure that we don’t damage that legacy. And, that we continue to live up to that world view of the American enlisted force.
Q. What is your passion?
A. I love the Air Force. It is the Year of the Air Force Family and that is exactly what the Air Force is to me, family. And, I am very passionate about my family – both my professional family and my personal family. And, I take great pride in that.
It doesn’t matter what it is we do, whether we are a defenders out on the ramp, whether we are a maintenance Airman out there with a wrench in hand or whether we are a services Airman working in (the dining facility); whatever it is we do, we need to do it with passion and with pride. We are part of the greatest Air Force this world has ever seen and it’s our job to make sure that it continues.