Supportive Leadership: Integrated Wing’s first female command chief

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Terrica Jones
  • 916th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Chief Master Sgt. Shirley Wilcox, 916th Air Refueling Wing command chief, not only is the first female command chief of the 916th ARW, she is also the very first command chief under the new Integrated Wing (I-Wing) construct which began here recently.

In October 2016, the 916th ARW became the first I-Wing unit in Air Force history, combining both active duty and reserve Airmen under one wing commander and administrative control. Setting the standard for this unique Total Force Initiative is not without challenges though.

“Being the first command chief of the I-Wing and having to run parallels between active duty and reserve is a challenge because they both have different requirements and different needs,” said Wilcox.

“The goal is to ensure that this works out the way it needs to and if we have issues we can work through them together.”

With any transition there will always be challenges and Wilcox has her ideas on how to handle those challenges.

“Yes it’s a challenge, but we have been doing this since 2008 when the 911th Air Refueling Squadron came on board,” said Wilcox. “I want to make sure that I am available for everyone and that whoever needs assistance, I can help them achieve their goals regardless if they are active duty or reserve.

“I want Airmen to know that I am here full time so if they have any issues or need anything they can talk to someone about it," she said. “I have an open door and they can come talk to me.”

Wilcox welcomes both positive and negative statements or any issues Airmen may want to discuss.

“If you see something going on positive or negative, don't be afraid to be vocal; we are trying to work as a team and make Seymour a better place,” said Wilcox.

The command chief also discussed Reserve retention within the 916th ARW.

“I know that we are having a problem with retention right now because of life stressors in general and with careers; it is one of the things I definitely understand,” said Wilcox. “I have a civilian job too and working your civilian job, driving here for unit training assemblies, getting your training, then driving back home, and going back to work the next day is a challenge."

“I appreciate the commitment that folks have. We know that it’s a challenge and we are trying to make it easier, but it’s going to take a little bit of time,” she said.

Wilcox wants to encourage Airmen who are dealing with these challenges and obstacles.

“There are obstacles to everything but you climb over them and figure out what to do and what processes and procedures to go through to make it work,” said Wilcox.

Despite the rigors of balancing civilian and military life, the command chief hopes to foster a positive atmosphere for the wing's Citizen Airmen while they're here.

“When you come to drill I want you to be excited to work and train,” she said.