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Meet the 86 AW’s new command chief

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ernesto J. Rendon Jr., 86th Airlift Wing command chief, center, speaks with Ramstein Air Base Airmen during the 86th Airlift Wing’s Diversity Day, Sept. 28. 2018. As the 86th AW’s newly appointed command chief, Rendon advises the commander and senior leadership on enlisted issues for the wing's 8,000 personnel.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes Stanton)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ernesto J. Rendon Jr., 86th Airlift Wing command chief, center, speaks with Ramstein Air Base Airmen during the 86th Airlift Wing’s Diversity Day, Sept. 28. 2018. As the 86th AW’s newly appointed command chief, Rendon advises the commander and senior leadership on enlisted issues for the wing's 8,000 personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nesha Humes Stanton)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Chief Master Sergeant Ernesto J. Rendon, Jr. serves as the Command Chief Master Sergeant for the 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. As the senior enlisted leader, Chief Rendon provides guided counsel to the commander and senior leadership on military readiness, mission effectiveness, professional development, morale, welfare, training, and good order and discipline of the wing's 8,000 personnel.

Prior to assuming his current position, he served as the Command Chief for the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England.

The 86th AW Public Affairs office sat down with Chief Rendon and discussed his leadership style, how his mentors shaped his career, and the importance of being present in our professional and personal lives.

Q. What are your priorities as you assume leadership of the enlisted personnel here at Ramstein?
A: As senior enlisted leader, it’s important our priorities are on our Airmen. Right now, by the nature of where we’re operating in this theatre, we must be mission ready. Readiness means we’re prepared to defend the base and every Airman, from the person who just arrived out of basic training, to our oldest Airmen. We must be mission-ready be able to operate under any and all environments. So, that’s really of the upmost of our priorities between Brig. Gen. August and I. We’re focused on making sure that our airmen are equipped, trained and ready to execute our mission and to fight our nation’s wars when called upon.

Q: What are your goals during your time at the 86th Airlift Wing?
I think the ultimate goal is to make sure that as a team we are able to sync up, provide a good unified front for our Airmen out there executing the mission. We have to stay ready to execute our COCOMs responsibility, be able to provide airlift, and be the premiere airlift wing in the world while still making sure we’re taking care of our other requirements.

Q. Looking at your Bio, we see you have served all over from Texas to Japan, Qatar, Washington, Turkey, England and this will be your fourth tour in Germany! How have those assignments prepared you for new position?
A: I’m a big believer in development. I think it’s important to have formal training. Ultimately, we all gain experiences every day, and all of those assignments brought different challenges and different opportunities that I think helped prepare me for what I’m going to do next. I learned from experience, you really have to slow down and live in the moment you’re experiencing so you’re best prepared for the next challenge.
I began as a Port Dawg operating on the flight line in Germany—at Rhein Main Air Base, Germany at the time—I continued to do some development special duty jobs in tech training and also as a first sergeant. The funny thing I learned later that I didn’t understand at the time, was how those assignments and units gave me a perspective that I benefited from professionally and personally. I got a perspective that I don’t know I would have received, had I not had the career path that I did. Ultimately, I think all those opportunities came because 1: I was willing to say ‘Yes,’ when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said “Hey Ernie, I think this is a good opportunity for you.” And, 2: I stepped out of my comfort zone in many of those assignments. I was rewarded by being able to grow, learn, and develop. Hopefully now I’ll have the opportunity to give some of that back to those who are coming in starting their careers or getting to the mid-point with goals of their own.

Q: What thoughts went through your mind when you found out you were coming back to Ramstein to serve as the Command Chief for the 86th Airlift Wing?
A: I was excited. It was bittersweet. To have the opportunity to come back to Ramstein as the Command Chief is special. It will be the highlight of my career; my family and I are pretty excited. Melissa [my wife] and I are ready to make a positive impact here.

Q: What would you like the men and women of the 86th Airlift Wing to know about your leadership style?
A: I am a pretty collaborative guy. When I was coming through the ranks, I valued having folks explain the ‘why’ to me. Early on, I struggled some, I questioned things often—really often. If something didn’t make sense to me I’d always want to ask ‘Why are we doing this?’, ‘Why does it matter?’. I thought I might have known a better way to do it and I wanted people to listen to me. That’s shaped how I’ve always been and how I operate today. I work really hard to collaborate with group chiefs to come up with what makes the most sense as an organization and for the Airmen who are counting us. I think the best way to come up with a solution is to collaborate with a team and receive all those inputs, then work to find the solution. Then, communicating that down to the lowest level is the next important thing. We need to be able to communicate to folks why they’re doing things and why those things matter.

Q: Who were your most influential mentors and what did they teach you?
A: My mom was the first real mentor I’ve had, she’s the real reason I’m here today. We weren’t wealthy, in fact we got by mostly when I was very young. She always taught me the value of working hard and being dedicated to the people you care about the most, the value of faith, and she kept me in line when I was starting to stray.
My wife and I joined the Air Force together in October 1992, she has been by my side throughout my entire career. I owe who I’ve become to her, she’s kept me very grounded.
Later in my career, my Chief Master Sergeant when I was a first sergeant at Yokota was a perfect model for me of what being a senior enlisted leader is all about. He made time for everybody. When you were in his presence you were the only thing that mattered, he knew exactly how to make you feel important, and he would go out of his way to make sure he was looking out for everyone.
There are a lot of other people throughout my life and my career who have been influential, but those are some key personnel who’ve shaped me at moments when it mattered most.

Q: What are some of your hobbies?
I like spending time with wife, since my kids are adults living on their own, now. I play golf on a fairly regular basis, I enjoy reading and traveling with my wife, spending time with her. In this job, you do a lot of talking with people. So, spending quiet moments with friends and family are what help me recharge my batteries.

Q: You’ve stated “Self-care is the most critical piece of resiliency.” What kind of self-care do you feel is important or practice yourself?
A: Unfortunately, as humans we don’t have sight-gauges. So, understand how you decompress and what makes you rest your mind. Ensure you understand how to unplug, what stresses you out and also, what gives you joy.

Q: What would you do differently if given the opportunity?
I would do all the same things, except I’d focus a little more on relationships with people. One of the things I’ve taken away from the retirement ceremonies I’ve been to is what really matters in the end is the people you’ve had these experiences with. I really get that now and I wish I would have figured that out as a younger Staff Sergeant. I spent too many of my early years focused on what’s next and what’s the next opportunity, because as I look back we’ve done some really cool stuff. I think back to operations we contributed to as young guys and I wish I would have taken more time to enjoy with the folks around me.