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Respect, communication key in SECAF, CSAF relationship

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 31, 2002) -- When the two highest-ranking Air Force leaders took their posts last year, they found they had something in common: a great respect for the other’s professionalism and experience.

Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche and Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. John P. Jumper commented on their impressions of one another and their working relationship during a recent interview taped for Air Force Television News.

“I'll tell you what's great for the United States Air Force: to have a secretary who, first of all, has commanded (in the Navy),” Jumper said. ”Then (Roche) goes out into the public sector, has experience on Capitol Hill, then goes out into big industry and has extensive experience in (the) defense industry.

“So there's not much that he hasn’t experienced in the many things…that touch the way the Air Force operates on a day-to-day basis.”

Roche said the general is one of the finest officers he has ever worked with.

“I'm a retired naval officer, so military officers are not strange to me,” Roche said. “I think his professionalism, knowledge, operational experience, wit and his caring (are) terrific, and I find him to be a superlative partner. I'm delighted to have a chance to serve alongside of him.”

Roche and Jumper both took their senior-level Air Force posts within a few months of each other. According to Jumper, this benefited their working relationship by allowing them to build a leadership foundation together.

“We didn't come in (during) the middle of the other guy's agenda, so we were able to create our own agenda for the Air Force, our own vision,” Jumper said. “We're able to shape it. And now we're out there working on making it happen.”

“(That means) we both have an opportunity to do what we can to bring our talents to bear to this Air Force,” Roche said. “It makes our job easier, it makes life easier, and it's the way to do business.”

Open communication between the two leaders, and an expectation of open communication from subordinates, bolsters the relationship between the two, and that is a benefit to the decision-making process and to the Air Force as a whole, Roche said.

“We believe that good ideas come from all kinds of places,” Roche said. “We're trying to create an environment where we have the right kind of challenge prior to a decision being made, and then a cheery ’yes, sir’ once the decision is made. We do it with each other, we do it with our colleagues close to us here, and we expect the whole Air Force to be that way.”

“Exactly right,” Jumper said. “We have what we call ‘briefing room rules.’ In the flying business, the briefing room is the place where you critique with some vigor each other's performance in a very honest and open way. When you walk out of the briefing room, everybody's friends again, but when you're in there you're pretty honest about what needs to be said.”

“We're close enough that we can have meaningful dialogue,” Roche added.

The segment about their leadership positions will appear in the Aug. 5 edition of AFTV News.