From one Airman to another

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Zachary Foster
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

Sometimes having the courage to speak up, even when it’s difficult, can have a profound impact on somebody’s life.

For Master Sgt. Anthony McRae, the choice to address an issue early in his career as an Airman helped him find his path to becoming the superintendent of the 6th Air Refueling Wing Inspector General complaints and resolutions department. As the wing IGQ superintendent, McRae serves as the “eyes and ears of the commander.”

Although McRae started out as an intelligence Airman, he found his calling to give a voice to the voiceless. Early in his intel career, McRae’s moral compass was tested as he identified irregularities in a records system.

“At the time, I was a brand-new staff sergeant working with an older system of record that supplied decision making information all the way from the command team to the Secretary of Defense,” he said. “During an exercise, I noticed discrepancies between the system of record and the actual situation.”

Faced with an issue that could potentially affect decisions at the highest level, McRae trusted his instincts and reported the problem.

He explained that even though the concern was not well received by others in his shop, he felt the importance of finding resolution furthered his responsibility to push the issue forward to higher levels.

“I could have ignored the issue with no consequences, but I felt I had to do the right thing,” McRae said. “Situations like that played a pivotal role in my path to working within the IG office.”

McRae’s experience bringing issues to the IG as an intelligence Airman helped to peak his interest in the broader mission set of the Air Force.

“Before I came to the IG office, I was the flight chief for Wing Intelligence and a Wing Inspection Team (WIT) member,” he said. “Being a part of the WIT, I worked closely with the exercise section of the IG to test our wing's ability to perform and try to identify any blind spots we may have.”

Shortly after, McRae found himself making a full transition to the IG career field. Here, he felt he could give a voice to young Airmen in a meaningful way.

“When we see one Airman going through a problem with a process, that means there are probably 20 other Airmen that have dealt with it, and 50 others that are going to deal with it,” McRae said. “In correcting processes and working with different commanders from across the base, we can fix an issue at a lower level before it compounds.”

Now, McRae is embracing his role, ensuring the Airmen in his care can carry out their mission without the worries he had endured during his younger years.

“I have an important mission, which is to put the needs of Airmen first,” McRae said. “A lot of the issues that come into our office are simply a situation where individuals haven’t been able to get the right answer. We offer steps towards resolution so they can get back to their mission without having to worry about reprisal.”

As McRae nears the end of his career, he reflects on the change he’s made in his life and the impact it's had on his decision-making process.

“I have an opportunity to affect change in a positive manner, and I take that responsibility seriously,” McRae said. “Not everybody is going to be happy but as long as we are moving forward with everybody’s best interests in mind, then we’re making the right decisions.”

For McRae, finding happiness in his career came from a willingness to embrace change and empowering fellow Airmen to have the courage to speak up without fear.

He offered a suggestion to his colleagues and other senior enlisted, saying, “from one Airman to another, we must be open to discussing difficult topics with our peers and subordinates. The Air Force is constantly evolving, and as leaders we must be willing to progress alongside the next generation.”