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Blazier shares story, vision as new Air University command chief

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Stai
  • Air University Public Affairs

Air University’s new command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Stefan Blazier, has been on campus for a little over a month. He comes to Maxwell from the Pentagon, where he served as the chief of Enlisted Force Development. In that role, he was instrumental in developing the Enlisted Force Development Plan, an aggressive road map for the development of enlisted Airmen.

Blazier sat with Air University Public Affairs recently to share his personal Air Force story and his vision for enlisted members not only at AU, but across the force as a whole.

Air University Public Affairs:  You’ve been serving in the Air Force for 24 years, what’s been the best part of your time in the service?

Chief Master Sgt. Stefan Blazier:  The best part is being at AU, and here’s why. I like to operate through the lens of the most important job is the one you have now and supporting the person who is right in front of you.  Sometimes we can get too stuck in the past (like staring at a trophy case). I’ve learned to look for opportunities in the given moments and embrace the chance to do something meaningful with them.

AUPA:  What job did you start out with in your career in? Did that change at all during your career?

Blazier:  I joined the Air Force on a complete leap of faith. As an 18-year-old who barely graduated high school (thanks largely to my wife’s mom), I went to the mall to buy a pair of Air Jordan’s in December 1997, and two weeks later I was in basic military training on an open-general contract. Somehow, I ended up scoring a job as a geo-spatial analyst, even though I didn’t even know what that was at the time. I was fortunate enough to serve in many different roles in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and cyber communities over the next two decades. Luckily for me in 2015, Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger Towberman, who was then serving as a command chief in the Air Force before the Space Force was born, pushed me outside of my comfort zone as a new chief into a job I would have never asked for. It ended up being one of my best learning experiences as a leader. It gave me the chance to appreciate the Air Force from a larger lens and how our missions and specialties all fit together. Back in the day, if you’d told me I’d have a chance to do the things I have, I would have laughed. My teammates, supervisors and leaders are responsible for what’s happened in my career … and life. The things you read in my bio are the results of their investment.

AUPA:  Where is home to you, and what is something you like to do with your spare time? 

Blazier:  I’m from west-central Florida. I really enjoy anything artistic or creative, such as designing, drawing, writing, and “trying” to golf.  My family also loves hosting friends, and we are avid movie watchers with a bias toward comedy, action and sci-fi. 

AUPA:  What has been the driving force in your career, what kept you reenlisting?

Blazier:  The challenge to make things better for others. No enlistment has been an easy decision. I’ve had frustrations, witnessed sub-par leadership and felt work demands that have tempted me to hang it up at multiple points. It was around my 10-year mark that a mentor named Master Sergeant Mark Ledesma, a retired Marine, made a simple statement that resonated with me: “You obviously care a lot about what is wrong or needs work, so if you walk away now, how does it get any better?”  That’s why I’ve chosen to stay in the arena. I’ll head to the sidelines one day, but for now I still enjoy fighting with others for better tomorrows.

AUPA:  Air University’s Thomas N. Barnes Center for Enlisted Education is the Air Force’s home for enlisted professional military education. Why do we put so much focus on enlisted PME, and where do you see it going from its current state, both in the delivery of curriculum and the focus of its content?

Blazier:  The work the amazing professionals do across the Barnes Center team is remarkable. The value they deliver to the force continues to be in high demand and sought after by some as “the answer.”  To be frank, I believe we largely put the wrong emphasis on enlisted PME. We can look at it as a “catch all” and in a way, try to “fix the Air Force” in these finite and infrequent windows across a career path. Enlisted PME is always impactful, but its value proposition goes way up when it’s integrated into an Airman’s progression and development at the unit level. In my opinion, that’s where we’re still lacking—on connectedness aspect—between our priorities, locations, specialties and different tiers. It’s no longer a case of “can we,” but “will we” make the changes the modern world enables us to do. We’re working toward an ecosystem of on-demand and on-command education, open architecture access to knowledge, peer-reviewed and created content for Airmen by Airmen. We’ll know when we’ve gotten it right when we stop saying things like “re-blue” or “Big A.”  That’s when Airmen, no matter where they serve, will know how they connect our Air Force missions and why what they do matters so much toward national defense and security.

AUPA:  What excites you the most about your new role as the command chief for Air University? 

Blazier:  The combined power of this institution mixed with the chance to fuel the increasing need for development across our force. With enlisted, officer and civilian education under one umbrella, we can explore ways to best integrate development that elevates teamwork and breaks down barriers to us reaching our maximum potential.  We’ve got an opportunity to do amazing things together, and I’m excited to do my part in any way possible.

AUPA:  You assisted in the creation of the Enlisted Force Development Action Plan during your time as the Air Force Chief of Enlisted Force Development while at the Pentagon. How does this plan contribute to the development of ready Airmen?

Blazier:  Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr., and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass gave our team a clear vector: “We want less talk and more action!”  That’s why the document itself shifted from a strategy to an action plan with stakeholders and aggressive milestones. The challenges we face as members of the military are very different than they were 30 years ago. The world is more complex, less predictable and faster paced than ever. As our greatest asymmetric advantage, we knew we had to equip our enlisted force with relevant development models to enable them to best compete anytime, anywhere. The EFD Action Plan is more about progress than seeking perfection, we must hold ourselves accountable for moving toward the targets that have been set. That’s going to take all of us, from leaders on the frontlines to those in headquarters staffs, everyone plays a part in the growth of our enlisted force.

AUPA:  In terms of what and how you contributed to the Enlisted Force Development Action Plan and your new role as AU’s command chief will, what do you feel you bring to AU?   

Blazier:  Primarily, I plan to serve as an integrator, connector and synchronizer. There’s a lot of movement on-going that is coupled with a demand for meaningful change, both inside and outside our command. Since energy and resources are not unlimited, it’s important to work to create a shared understanding as best as we can. We need to move together when it makes sense without feeling like we need to wait for someone to tell us to do the right thing.

AUPA:  Many Airman are familiar with the "Little Brown Book"  and the "Little Blue Book". Could you tell me about how those are changing and why there is a need to have this resource in the hands of all enlisted Airmen regardless of rank? 

Blazier:  In fast-paced and transformative times, it’s crucial to have a solid sense of what is foundational. These are the attributes and qualities that make us perform at a high level – the combinations of our shared values and overall expectations as military professionals. As we shifted from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, we briefly lost sight of our core. From multiple focus groups, Airmen across the board let us know that these books became less available and harder to access both in print and online. When the basic structure and values aren’t known across any team, you’ve got a problem. That’s why they’ve been completely redesigned and revived with updated content based on the needs of the modern warfighter and capture how our Airmen team up to generate air power. Now that they are released, multiple efforts are underway to get them spread across work centers and into the hands of our Airmen when, where and how they need them.   

AUPA:  What are you hoping to gain from your time here as our Air University command chief? 

Blazier:  This one’s pretty easy. The biggest thing I hope to gain is ground. For those out in our Air Force today and those who will take our places one day. The primary job of any leader is to move the organization forward. Since we all work in the people business across AU, I just have to look around to find all the motivation I need to keep going, even on the hardest days. Working for the future of our people is a blessing, and I aim to make each day count for them.