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Air Guard director engages Airmen at 125th Fighter Wing

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Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director, Air National Guard, had the opportunity to see different shops around the 125th Fighter Wing during his base tour Oct. 20, 2019. Rice and Command Chief Master Sgt. Ron Anderson, Command Chief Master Sgt., Air National Guard, held a question and answer forum with Airmen of the 125th. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Hancock)

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Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Director, Air National Guard, had the opportunity to see different shops around the 125th Fighter Wing during his base tour Oct. 20, 2019. Rice and Command Chief Master Sgt. Ron Anderson, Command Chief Master Sgt., Air National Guard, held a question and answer forum with Airmen of the 125th. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Hancock, Released.)

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Command Chief Master Sgt. Ron Anderson, Command Chief Master Sgt., Air National Guard, had the opportunity to see different shops around the 125th Fighter Wing during his base tour Oct. 20, 2019. Anderson and Lt. General L. Scott Rice, Director, Air National Guard held a question and answer forum with Airmen of the 125th. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Hancock)

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Command Chief Master Sgt. Ron Anderson, Command Chief Master Sgt., Air National Guard, speaks with Airman 1st Class Colin O’Sullivan, a 125th Fighter Wing Crew Chief, during his base tour Oct. 20, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Hancock)

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Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Director, Air National Guard, had the opportunity to see different shops around the 125th Fighter Wing during his base tour Oct. 20, 2019. Rice and Command Chief Master Sgt. Ron Anderson, Command Chief Master Sgt., Air National Guard, held a question and answer forum with Airmen of the 125th. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Hancock)

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Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Director, Air National Guard, had the opportunity to see different shops around the 125th Fighter Wing during his base tour Oct. 20, 2019. Rice and Command Chief Master Sgt. Ron Anderson, Command Chief Master Sgt., Air National Guard, held a question and answer forum with Airmen of the 125th. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob Hancock)

JACKSONVILLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Fla. --

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, director, Air National Guard, engaged Airmen from the 125th Fighter Wing, Oct. 20, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Ronald C. Anderson Jr., Command Chief Master Sgt., Air National Guard, accompanied Rice during the visit and spoke highly of the director's appreciation of his Airmen.  

"The man standing to my right, and his leadership, and what he believes in his heart about the value of every Airman…is something that you don't find every day," Anderson said. "He understands what enlisted leadership means, and what it means to be an enlisted member of our Air National Guard.

Rice has made a personal and professional goal to meet and interact with the Airmen serving at each of the 90 wings under his command. 

The 125FW marks the 86th stop of the tour. However, Rice expressed that while this may be the 86th stop, the 125FW is the number one organization in not only the Guard, but in the United States military. 

"The reason why we are not in armed conflict with another nation right now in the Middle East is because this unit deployed to a location over in the Middle East, flew, fought, presented forces and won," Rice said. "You did that."

Beyond simply putting boots on the ground at each unit, Rice said his goal was build an intimate understanding of the strategic, operational and tactical stressors that never quite make it up the ladder through official channels. 

By meeting Guardsmen face-to-face, he wanted to get the pulse of the people and gain grass roots level insight into the challenges and stressors that his people struggle with day-to-day.

"It doesn't matter whether you're younger or older, or you've been in this business a long time or a short time, we all have challenges," Rice said. "We all can be better. We can all work toward better communication with each other, for each other and with each other."

He began his tour of the 125FW with a full-spectrum readiness brief with both wing and state leadership, including the Adjutant General of Florida, U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. James Eifert, Assistant Adjutant General-Air, U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Valle and 125FW Commander U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Coffey III, among others. 

Following the briefing, Rice and the leadership team made their way around the base moving shop to shop. Along the way, Rice observed local training and maintenance procedures, coined a few outstanding performers and dined with 20 Airmen selected to represent the wing. Lastly, the general took the stage to share what he's learned on his tour, and express his vision for the future of the ANG.

"This is our time," Rice said. "This is our time to make a difference on the evolution of life on this planet. And every single person adds value to that."

The general's visit to engage with Airmen on a personal level also coincided with the 125FW Resilience Tactical Pause held Oct. 19.

Air Force leadership announced a one day operational "pause" to address a rise in suicides across the force, including the Air National Guard.

“For the last five years, suicide has been the leading cause of death among our airmen. This internal threat to our total force is often silent, hiding among our formations, endangering the lives of our airmen and their families. The Air Force is facing an internal threat that knows no boundaries,” the AF Resilience website says.

In a video released by U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Kaleth O. Wright, chief master sergeant of the Air Force, he said 78 airmen have taken their lives in 2019, nearly 30 more than this time last year. 

The 125FW Tactical Pause gave Airmen across the wing the chance to speak the unspoken and explore topics often considered taboo in a safe space. Airmen broke up into smaller groups while facilitators guided discussions to address the big and small issues that lead to Airmen feeling isolated, helpless and suicidal. The day ended with casual fun activities to promote camaraderie without expectations.  

"There is nothing more important to General Rice and I than every single one of you in our Air National Guard family," Anderson said. "We talked about those tails on the ramp out there…those are just great lawn ornaments without all of you. It takes every single Airman to do this, and I can't afford, we can't afford to lose any one of you."

Rice has only four wings left to visit on his tour. When he reaches the last of the 90, not only will he accomplish his goal, he will be the first Air National Guard director in history to do so.