AFOTEC Command Chief’s Priorities: Relevant, Ready, Resilient

  • Published
  • By Katherine C. Gandara, Public Affairs Advisor
  • Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center

Professor and author Brené Brown, in her book Dare to Lead, defines a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential. CMSgt. Christopher Griste, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center Command Chief, is just such a leader. Since his assignment to AFOTEC in January 2022, Chief Griste’s leadership approach has been focused on making AFOTEC better for every team member.

That authentic leadership will be shared even more when he becomes the Command Chief for the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C. Before Chief Griste’s departure in May, he shared some of his key thoughts about his time at AFOTEC.

What does the AFOTEC Command Chief do?

My primary role is to advise the commander and staff on the mission effectiveness, professional development, military readiness, training, utilization, health, morale, and welfare of AFOTEC's enlisted Airmen and take actions to address shortfalls or challenges. While my primary job is to take care of the enlisted force, I always like to say that I am here to take care of the entire force, our officers and our civilians. I want to know what is on everyone's minds and help them with any problems they face, whether personally or professionally. I also want to be involved in all mission areas at Headquarters and our detachments. This helps me identify issues and allows me to be able to advise the AFOTEC Commander, Maj. Gen. Trey Rawls. I also work closely with other Command Chiefs at Kirtland and our detachment locations to ensure that all of our Airman's quality of life issues are being addressed and to be able to understand what challenges our Airmen are faced with at all our locations.

Being the first AFOTEC Command Chief, what were your goals during your time here? Did you meet these goals?

First, it was an absolute honor for me to be the first AFOTEC Command Chief and to get the privilege to serve with all the men and women of AFOTEC. When hired, I had never heard of AFOTEC, and I immediately saw this as a problem. Especially once I learned how critical our mission is and how we directly affect the Warfighter and, ultimately, our national security. Right out of the gate, I set three priorities: Relevant, Ready, and Resilient. When discussing being relevant, I immediately wanted to start using my position to educate the force on what AFOTEC does, offers, and brings to the fight. I want AFOTEC to be a sought-after organization for people to want to come and work for. When I talk about being ready, no matter what, our Airmen must always remain ready to do whatever is required for the mission and always remain ready to protect our nation. Last, I wanted to ensure that our Airmen and the entire organization were resilient. A resilient force is critical in today's fast-paced environment, and I want to ensure that our organization has every opportunity possible to help our Airmen be resilient. 

I made some progress in my goals, but we still have to keep getting after it, especially when it comes to being relevant to the rest of the force. We made some significant headway, though, by first having an avenue through the Command Chief position to share what we do with the Air Force Senior Enlisted Council. We took our AFOTEC display to the 2022 Air Force Sergeants Association annual meeting, which allowed us a fantastic marketing opportunity to get AFOTEC's name out there. This was in concert by us taking our display to both Air Force Association symposiums. These events alone were a huge success and paid big dividends. Also, being able to get out to our detachment locations and to be able to interact with those installation Command Chiefs helped a ton. Fortunately, I immediately learned that the AFOTEC team was ready and resilient and had a great mission and vision that made it a priority.

What are some of the memorable experiences you take with you?

The most memorable experiences I will take with me will be seeing what our men and women across AFOTEC do daily to ensure our warfighters have the weapon systems they must have. It was always such a pleasure for me to get out to all of our detachment and operating locations to see first-hand what our Airmen are doing to impact the mission. I was also impressed daily with the professionals at Headquarters supporting the AFOTEC mission. I have gotten to see a lot and learn a ton that has made me a more capable Airman, but at the end of the day, my most memorable experiences will be the people. 

How important is the enlisted members role in AFOTEC? What can AFOTEC offer an enlisted member? 

Like the rest of the force, our enlisted members are vital to the mission. They are often the subject matter experts on many of our test programs, but the ground truth they bring makes them critical to us. When I say ground truth, I mean that they have recently lived in the operational environments where many of our weapon systems are being tested or fielded. They often bring a fresh perspective that can be useful in determining why something may or may not be overlooked in the test process. What AFOTEC can offer our Airmen is 1) to keep doing what they are doing, and 2) to continue to look for ways to use our enlisted Airmen more, look for more developmental opportunities, and listen to their ideas. Our enlisted Airmen often want to try doing things in new ways, which is what we need. To be innovative, we have to try things a different way. The new way might fail, but that is ok; that is part of the change process. However, the new way might work, save valuable dollars, and improve us, ultimately benefiting our customers. 

What's next? How has AFOTEC prepared you for your next assignment?

I am headed to the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, S.C., to be their next Command Chief. My family and I are very excited and grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to getting after a critical mission there and continuing to take care of our Airmen. The biggest thing that AFOTEC has prepared me for my next assignment is the opportunity to work for Maj. Gen. Jim Sears, the previous AFOTEC Commander, and Maj. Gen. Trey Rawls, the current AFOTEC Commander. They both have been great and have allowed me to be a better strategic and critical thinker. Additionally, the opportunity to work in the test enterprise has given me the knowledge to understand how our weapon systems are fielded, allowing me to explain the process to others, especially if there might be misunderstandings or frustrations about the process. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

My wife Jamie and I are truly blessed to have had the opportunity to be part of such a fantastic organization. We have had such a great time here and will miss everyone. I know that AFOTEC will continue to crush the mission and do great things.