From the top: New command chief outlines career, way ahead

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The new wing command chief arrived here in June.

Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Grengs, 52nd Fighter Wing command chief, has since been immersing himself in the culture of the Saber nation and adopting the wing's priorities, goals and vision.

"It's a privilege to serve in this capacity," Grengs said of his command position. "But at the end of the day, I'm an Airman just like everyone else -- we are all truly important in serving with the Saber team and continuing on with the wing's performance of excellence."

Grengs completed his previous position as the aviation management branch chief and aviation resource management functional manager at Air Force Special Operations Command in Hurlburt Field, Fla. However, he has had varied career experiences that include different aspects of leadership at the operational, tactical and strategic levels.

The Longmont, Colo., native enlisted in the Air Force in early 1989 with a career choice of open administration and was eventually assigned to operations resource management -- now called aviation resource management.

He arrived at Pease Air Force Base, N.H., in that year's summer and began to experience the operational Air Force for the first time. Shortly after arriving, he met his now wife, had a child and received orders to Osan Air Base, South Korea.

"I thought about turning down the orders," he said about the difficulty of leaving his new family for a year. "But I was advised that I would have to separate after my enlistment if I did that. I wasn't ready to get out of the Air Force just yet."

Alone and in Korea, Grengs committed himself to selfless duty and daily excellence. His workmanship and responsibility became an established character trait of which coworkers could depend upon. Even as an airman 1st class, the unit commander agreed to allow Grengs to move his family to the peninsula and live on the economy.

The next assignment to Tinker AFB, Okla., challenged Grengs by putting him in the largest flight records facility in the Air Force at that time. He made staff sergeant, had his second child and prepared for his next move to Aviano AB, Italy, to stand up aviation resource management operations there.

Ellsworth AFB, S.D., became his next home in 1997 and was the first time the aircrew he supported gave him a call sign: Grungy.

"It was to the point that when a phone call would come in asking for Sergeant Grengs, no one knew who that was," he said with a laugh. "But everyone knew Grungy."

Grengs, then a master sergeant, garnered a position at U.S. Air Forces in Europe headquarters at Ramstein AB working as part of the aviation resource management staff. He operated at the strategic level of the Air Force for the next four and a half years.

"I saw how each specific (ARM) unit within USAFE affected the bigger picture," he said. "It was a privilege to be at the MAJCOM and see the bigger picture and how my career field and its Airmen worked into the entire Air Force mission."

Grengs said he remembers to this day what he learned working on the USAFE staff about fair treatment to the people who work at the wing and in the smaller supporting units.

For his next base, he and his wife wished for a smaller town or a smaller base. However, he knew he should push himself outside of his comfort zone and instead went to Luke AFB, Ariz., as a superintendant, functional manager and mentor for more than 40 aviation resource managers.

Grengs said it was there that he learned the ultimate validation of his efforts is when others are recognized for their accomplishments. He charges Spangdahlem's NCOs to recognize that the team is only as successful as the Airmen at the ground level who work daily toward mission success. NCOs are the backbone of the force, and it is their duty to forge leaders out of the most basic of Airmen.

"It's humbling and amazing what we ask our Airmen to do to ensure mission success," he said. "And as the Air Force becomes more lean, the leadership structure can't just be two or three people at the top. Leaders are needed throughout the organization, and it starts at the lowest level."

Grengs, a senior master sergeant, traveled to Fort Lewis, Wash., in September 2008 as part of the detachment leadership for combat skills training. He helped lead more than 650 Airmen through Army training prior to their deployments to contingency operations across the world. The caliber of the training allowed Grengs to see the effectiveness of the joint environment and showed him a different perspective of today's Airmen -- people who regularly deploy in harm's way with joint brothers and sisters in arms.

"Everybody, at some level, wants to meet their potential," he said. "As mentors and leaders, we need to guide them toward that end. We need to inspire, motivate and equip our Airmen to meet their fullest potential."

He made chief master sergeant while in Fort Lewis and knew he and his family would have to move again soon. So, he volunteered for the career field functional manager, received the job and left for Florida in 2009.

He soon gained deployment experience as he flew to Iraq to become the Combined Joint Special Operations Air Component command chief. He toured his area of responsibility meeting with Defense Department service members and seeing firsthand the effectiveness of coalition forces.

He came back from his deployment with an understanding of how each unit, regardless of proximity to the fight, supports the Air Force's global operations objectives. He said it does not matter if someone is a support Airmen, a maintainer or part of the aircrew -- all of the Air Force's Airmen serve an important purpose in the grand scheme.

As the current 52nd FW command chief, he plans to contribute his part to the grand scheme by continually and consistently building NCO and senior NCO leadership capacity. Competent leaders within the NCOs corps should know how to take care of and support their Airmen to the fullest extent.

"Success starts in the brown book," he said, referring to Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure. "It outlines the basic standards and expectations regardless of (Air Force Specialty Code). It tells you what you need to be successful."

The chief also encouraged the Spangdahlem community to remember basic customs and courtesies, not just the professional requirements of Air Force Airmen, but the way people should be treated. A little kindness goes a long way.

"We're all human," he continued. "I shouldn't treat anyone less just because of the amount of stripes on his sleeve or what's on his collar. People want to know they're appreciated, and if they weren't important, they wouldn't be here."

He said that it is a privilege to wear the uniform as defenders of freedom and justice. Very few people have the opportunity to wear the uniform, so why not wear it proudly and correctly?

"It's disappointing to see people not wear the uniform correctly," he said about Airmen who wear unauthorized items. "I follow this rule: If the Air Force didn't issue it to me, then I need to check the (regulations) to see if it's okay to wear.

"It's an easy thing to check," he added.

Grengs said that he has some big shoes to fill by stepping up to become the wing's command chief, but he's excited to be a part of Spangdahlem's command structure.

"I'm forcing myself to grow," he said. "Even as a chief, there's still something new to learn every day. Any time someone has an opportunity to step up and do something to open their aperture -- do it.

"The equation is simple," he continued. "Better leaders mean a better Air Force."