6th ARW chaplain bridges gap between generations

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

Capt. James Whitfield, 6th Air Refueling Wing chaplain, led a leadership boot camp for the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Nov. 29-30, 2023.

The course focused on four main topics of interest: understanding Generation Z Airmen, the difference between good and toxic leadership, subconscious bias and emotional intelligence.

Whitfield, a former school counselor, drew from his counseling sessions to explain, “I’ve seen an uptick in stress among our Airmen. A lot of that stress comes down to how our leaders are leading and how the Airmen receive that leadership.”

Junior enlisted Airmen made up the first session. Here, Whitfield addressed the role of followership in the workplace to better connect the younger group with their supervisors.

The following sessions were filled with noncommissioned officers, senior NCOs and the 6th LRS’s officers. These groups focused on understanding the impact of social media and pandemic driven isolation on the younger generation’s development.

“Our older Airmen may have spent time down range, whether it be 9/11, the War on Terror, Iraq or Afghanistan,” Whitfield said. “Whereas, our younger Airmen have exposure with social media, technology and COVID-19. That separation in experience is what I’ve identified as a root cause for that gap.”

By breaking down the barrier in communication and addressing the separation directly, Whitfield hopes both supervisors and their subordinates can walk away with a better understanding of how and why certain behaviors occur.

According to Whitfield, the LRS group is just the start, and he's awaiting feedback before taking the course to other squadrons across the installation.

The leadership boot camp will be opening to all 6th ARW personnel during an upcoming Wingman Day, featured alongside a week of wellness training, including retired Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Brinkley’s Warrior Heart initiative.

Courses like Whitfield’s leadership boot camp serve as a part of the 6th ARW’s efforts to localize Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David W. Allvin’s “follow through” initiative.

In a memorandum, Allvin defined “follow through” in part as a commitment “to adapt our organizational structure to optimize for great power competition.” Whitfield’s course sets out to bridge the gap in communication throughout the LRS chain of command, identifying an issue and striving towards a better future for the 6th ARW as a whole.