MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --
The West Virginia Air National Guard’s newest state command chief spent a week at the 167th Airlift Wing in February, his first visit to the wing since being appointed Jan. 1.
Command Chief Master Sgt. James Dixon met with Airmen in many of the shops at the Martinsburg air base and shared some of the ideas he has as he takes on his new role.
Dixon enlisted into the 130th Airlift Wing in 1988. He started in base supply and was selected for a full-time position in 1992. He transitioned to the 130th communications flight in 1996 where he honed his technical and leadership skills until 2014. He was then detailed to the Inspector’s General office to stand up the commander’s inspection program.
He has also been active in the Enlisted Association and in various working groups throughout his career to help make improvements at the unit and national levels.
“I tried to do a little extra, to make things a little better,” Dixon said.
Those efforts were always “on-the-side.” He saw the command chief position as an opportunity to put his full effort into serving people and making a bigger impact.
“When the opportunity came up I jumped on it and I was fortunate enough to be selected,” Dixon said. “So now it’s up to me to see if I can actually make a difference.”
One area Dixon is hoping to make a difference is suicide prevention.
“We do a really good job at suicide prevention, but suicide prevention means someone is considering suicide and now we have to prevent them,” Dixon explained. “One of my focus areas is going to be what I call suicide prevention-prevention.”
Dixon wants to build onto the existing resilience programs in the state. The idea is to provide Airmen with the tools they need so that suicide is never even considered.
Another area Dixon will be focusing his attention is senior enlisted development.
“We do a good job in developing, or at least providing opportunities, for our young enlisted troops but once they hit the senior enlisted level they are focused on developing their airman,” Dixon said.
There are several senior enlisted development courses available. Dixon encourages everyone to take advantage of those educational opportunities so that they will be more competitive for nationwide opportunities.
“It’s a tough sell to a commander for a chief who is an integral part of their organization to go for even a week-long course, but I hope commanders and senior enlisted will see the value in it,” Dixon said.
Dixon noted there are a number of challenges that the wings in the state face, one being the upcoming deployment cycle.
“We’re not used to deploying such large numbers of folks at the same time,” Dixon said. “It’s important that we start preparing people for that. Preparing the people that are staying here to handle the work load, but definitely preparing the deployer’s and their families, too.”
Another initiative Dixon will pursue is to bring more visibility and accessibility of the state leadership to the Wing level.
“I want to bridge that gap,” Dixon said. “I’d like to get up here more often, in an informal way, just like I’m doing this week to get to know the people and see what you do.”
Dixon said he was impressed with the people and the facilities at the 167AW.
“There’s a lot of new in the West Virginia National Guard and there’s a lot of new here, a lot of new people, a new mission, new facilities. It’s exciting to be a part of it,” Dixon said.