AFNORTH transfers authority of enlisted force to new command chief
Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Brush (center), the former Air Forces Northern command chief, passes his command chief coin to Lt. Gen. Sid Clarke, AFNORTH commander, during a transfer of authority ceremony at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 23. Chief Brush passed responsibility of the command’s enlisted force to Chief Master Sgt. Jim Hotaling (right). (U.S. Air Force photo by Susan Trahan)
AFNORTH transfers authority of enlisted force to new command chief

by Angela Pope
AFNORTH Public Affairs

3/23/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Air Forces Northern held a transfer of authority ceremony March 23, during which Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Brush passed responsibility of the organization's enlisted force to Chief Master Sgt. Jim Hotaling.

"I stand before you today a humbled and honored Airman," said Chief Hotaling, who most recently served as the wing command chief master sergeant for the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, Ore. "I look forward to serving you as your command chief."

Chief Brush, who is the State Command Chief of the Montana Air National Guard, served as AFNORTH's interim command chief since the departure of the previous command chief Sept. 8, 2011.

The original plan was to have Chief Brush fill in for a few weeks while AFNORTH found a chief to fill the billet permanently. Once Chief Hotaling was selected, he was offered a chance to attend a professional military education course. Even though it meant Chief Brush would be away from his family for a bit longer, he happily agreed to stay on with AFNORTH to provide his replacement the opportunity to further his military education.

"This was supposed to be a 'three-hour tour,' but it turned into a seven-month odyssey. I thought, 'I'm only here for six weeks, so by the time the general figures out who I am, I'll be gone,'" Chief Brush joked during the ceremony. "In all seriousness, my intent from my first day was to maintain continuity, meet the general's intent and provide a driven enlisted force."

The chief's main goal was to ensure the enlisted voice was heard throughout the command.

"If you take a look at the way this organization is structured, it's very typical to a normal headquarters. There is a very large officer population because the directorates are all here, so the enlisted footprint - as significant as it is - it's very small," Chief Brush said. "I strove to create a transparent, repeatable process and to get everyone moving in the same direction. I wanted our Airmen to know without a doubt that they were represented."

The geographic separation in the command is one of the bigger challenges the chief faced during his temporary tenure.

"It's hard sometimes to get everyone to see a common operating picture. Washington state doesn't do it the same as Oregon who doesn't do it the same as California," Chief Brush said. "Involving the senior leaders from all our organizations helps those units see how others are doing it so we can create a continuity of effort within the command."

The people and the work were the chief's favorite aspects of the job.

"I love what I do and I love the people here," he said. "It's almost like being an animal control officer with cats and dogs and snakes and birds. Everybody is in a different status, from a different location. There's a mix of people here, and it's intriguing to me. I will definitely miss the people of this command."
Now having served for a national-level, three-star general officer command, Chief Brush said he's learned some lessons he can take back to his position in Montana, where his boss is a one-star general.

"There is a huge difference in perspective and strategic outlook. The motivators, the enterprise picture and the priorities are different," he said. "I have gotten a better look at the big picture - I've seen the whole pie instead of just a slice."

And though his stay was short, his impact was huge.

"I know we all have a special place in our hearts for Chief Brush for all the things he did while he was here," said Lt. Gen. Sid Clarke, AFNORTH commander. "He came in as an interim command chief but took on the job as if he'd be here for 10 years."

After being awarded a Meritorious Service Medal for his service to AFNORTH, the chief made one last request of the enlisted force before he passed on his command chief coin and responsibility of the force.

"Please provide Chief Hotaling with the same respect and warmth you provided me. Give him everything you gave me," Chief Brush said. "If you do these things for him, he will take this place to new heights."