Taking care of people

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Christopher Walker
  • West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs

As I have stepped into my new role as the Commander of the West Virginia Air National Guard, I have not been shy about sharing messages on my vision for the WVANG, The Adjutant’s General’s priorities and other important topics with service members across the state. I personally enjoying engaging with our Airmen and Soldiers any chance I get because I truly believe that we are a family and we must take care of one another. I find it so important that I have included “taking care of our people” as one of my priorities as the Assistant Adjutant General – Air.

Taking care of our people can be demonstrated in many fashions - from leading by example, to empowering our NCOs to make decisions at the lowest level, to incorporating our families in what we do. Additionally, I want to encourage a culture of diversity by stressing that our service members should be able to come to work and “be who they are,” and I want and need our service members to feel that they can freely contribute to “the team.” As leaders at every level, the value we place on taking care of our people has a direct reflection on our ability to conduct our missions and meet the needs of the changing battle space. 

The work that we do within this organization is nothing less than outstanding, but it is also complex and dangerous at times. On any given day, we have C-17s and C-130s flying global mobility missions either in country or in support of strategic objectives for Geographic Combatant Commanders. We have Soldiers and Airmen training on cyber initiatives, supporting drug-free coalitions in schools across our state, and helping to construct facilities in Poland to bolster our Allies’ defenses in Europe. We are spending drill weekends focusing on basic Soldier and Airmen tasks, refreshing on chemical warfare defense and honing our abilities to plan and conduct operations in support of the National Defense Strategy. The work we do demands a culture that is focused on taking care of people and upholding our values.

In order to do so effectively, we must operate in an environment that is free of harassment and assault. Our people deserve it and the citizens of West Virginia deserve to know that their National Guard will not condone activities that are in direct opposition to a culture of dignity and respect. Since 2009, we have taken great lengths to improve the reporting and investigation process.  On any of the reported and substantiated sexual assault or sexual harassment cases, the command has reviewed and taken the

necessary adverse action to prevent or mitigate future occurrences. For instance, in a majority of those cases involving significant sexual misconduct, over 70% resulted in the offender being removed from the

military. Other case have resulted in demotions, reprimands, or rehabilitative transfers. The bottom line is, I and the West Virginia National Guard senior leaders take this topic very seriously, and our Soldiers and Airmen must understand the seriousness of the topic and the outcomes for those who chose to go against our values as an organization.  

The eradication of sexual assault and harassment within our armed forces isn’t just a topic that we speak about once a year during April, it is a constant discussion that should be taking place at all levels within our ranks. I urge each individual to take ownership of this issue and help us drive forward toward a path of mutual respect and dignity for all who serve.