Early in April at March Air Reserve Base, California, I will have the opportunity to wish a fond farewell to Chief Master Sgt. Ericka Kelly, Air Force Reserve’s senior enlisted advisor and Air Force Reserve Command’s command chief master sergeant.
She has been my principle advisor on matters concerning the health, morale and welfare of approximately 74,000 dedicated Reserve enlisted, officer and civilian members serving at more than 60 military installations worldwide.
Chief Kelly’s top priority was taking care of our Airmen and promoting positive change to progress this great command. She traveled to the AOR multiple times and visited numerous wings where you and your families serve.
She took time to not only listen, but also hear, the unique challenges you face balancing individual wellness, service, careers and family. Those challenges did not fall on deaf ears. As the voice of the enlisted force, she championed for the tools, training and support you need to improve your quality of life and be equipped to carry out the Air Force Reserve mission to fly, fight and win.
Chief Kelly also campaigned to fix the issues that impacted the Reserve balance and made recommendations to defer or realign tasks not directly contributing to the overall readiness of the force.
At the unit level, many of our commander support staffs saw their manpower increase to reduce administrative distractions that took time away from warfighters.
Surgeon general medical file backlogs affecting participation and pay were reduced through process improvements. Nearly $90 million in Reserve Personnel Appropriation funds were reallocated across the wings to increase participation and readiness.
Reserve Citizen Airmen were empowered to take smart risks and eliminate cumbersome additional duties and unnecessary ancillary training, which you identified as interfering with mission requirements, enabling every unit training assembly to be a readiness UTA.
Her voice carried as a steward of trust, demanding positive change and unwavering support so you and your families have better access to resiliency tools and programs.
She advocated improvement for family-focused programs, such as the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, designed to help service members and their families prepare for, see through, and reintegrate after deployments. She supported veteran initiatives like the Enlisted Village and the Armed Forces Retirement Home, offering safe and secure retirement communities for our widows, spouses and retirees.
Chief Kelly valued your diverse experience and capitalized on ways to grow and keep your talent. More than 40 recruiters and 39 career assistance advisors were added across the enterprise to recruit and retain the best and brightest Reservists, ensuring the greatest edge in any future conflict.
She steered the Senior Enlisted Council and Enlisted Grades Council through force structure and development improvements to find the most effective, efficient mix of noncommissioned officers to secure our future, to provide purposeful and strategic career progression guidance, and leadership opportunities necessary to build the resilient leaders who can plug into any organization and succeed.
Without a doubt, Chief Kelly focused her energy on improving the quality of life for our enlisted Airmen and their families, while balancing the needs of AFRC and the Air Force. She exemplified our core values, fostered leadership development of our young Airmen and laid the groundwork for our next generation of enlisted leaders to build a more lethal, resilient and dynamic force.
I am honored to have served with Command Chief Master Sgt. Ericka Kelly. She is, and always will be, a leader with a voice as big as her heart. Thank you, Ericka, my friend and mentor. I am both proud and humbled by your servant leadership.
As Chief Kelly moves on to the next chapter of her life, please help me welcome our new command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Timothy White. He has the biggest pair of size six boots to fill, but this selection speaks highly of his expertise, qualifications and demonstration of outstanding performance throughout his service, and as the former 4th Air Force command chief.
I am honored to have him as part of the Air Force Reserve team as we advance our strategic priorities to accelerate readiness and prioritize strategic depth, develop resilient leaders and reform our organization.