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'Your one constant ... is excellence'

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey gets a tour of fitness facilities from Master Sgt. Lauralee Okoniewski May 22, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. Okoniewski is a Walnut Ridge, Ark., native deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey gets a tour of fitness facilities from Master Sgt. Lauralee Okoniewski May 22, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. Okoniewski is a Walnut Ridge, Ark., native deployed from Scott Air Force Base, Ill. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey talks about leadership and character May 22, 2012 during a dinner with noncommissioned officers of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey talks about leadership and character during a dinner with noncommissioned officers of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, May 22, 2012 . Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey talks with maintainers while visiting the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing May 22, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey talks with maintainers while visiting the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, May 22, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Tech. Sgt. David McDonald, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, shows Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey the newly renovated computer room May 21, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Tech. Sgt. David McDonald, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, shows Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey the newly renovated computer room May 21, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Tech. Sgt. Lawrence Jones, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, tells Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey about the education opportunities at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing May 21, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay)
(U.S. Air Force Photo/ Master Sgt Scott MacKay)

Tech. Sgt. Lawrence Jones, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron, tells Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey about the education opportunities at the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, May 21, 2012. Sealey, the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant, toured the wing and spoke with several groups of Airmen during his two-day visit. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay) (U.S. Air Force Photo/ Master Sgt Scott MacKay)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- "It all comes down to your paper clip"

That was the cryptic advice the U.S. Air Forces Central command chief master sergeant offered during his visit to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing May 21-22.

In addition to visiting various units, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Sealey had dinner with a group of NCOs and breakfast the next morning with several company grade officers. Halfway through each meal, he offered the groups a paper clip and invited everyone to twist into a new shape and then restore it to its original form.

"Once you bend a paper clip, you can never get it back to its original shape; it may be close, but it's changed forever," Sealey clarified. "You make decisions every day, but if you ever do anything that compromises your integrity, you can't ever take that back.

"The paper clip," Sealey said, "is your character. And character matters."

The metaphor resonated with the Airmen. For Capt. Chrisjay Fontillas, a KC-10 Extender pilot who attended the CGO breakfast, it was a lesson he'll always remember every time he sees a paper clip.

"It was good to see a senior NCO, especially one in a headquarters leadership role, take the time to mentor some of us CGOs," said Fontillas, deployed from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. "I appreciate how he took the time to explain how we fit in the larger Air Force picture in our middle management roles. He has an interesting perspective as both a chief and a father of an Airman."

Sealey's son is a firefighter and, the chief noted, could one day work for one of the CGOs at the breakfast.

"America has given you their sons and daughters, the expectation is that you'll take care of them," Sealey said.

It's certainly the expectation of Air Force leaders even when they're not their actual sons and daughters, the chief joked.

In addition to the question-and-answer meals, Sealey met with Airmen in security forces, the fitness center, community areas and the explosive ordnance disposal flight as well as several maintainers.

"I've been in my job for about seven months now and in that time, the mission of the 380th has changed dramatically," the chief said. "But what hasn't changed, your one constant, is excellence. It's pretty amazing what the 380th accomplishes on a daily basis."

While the visit wasn't Sealey's first to the wing, he said it's important for him to talk with small groups of Airmen in person on a regular basis.

"My number one job is making sure everyone has what they need to do their jobs," Sealey said. "I like to talk face to face with as many people as I can so I can gauge how they're doing. It also gives me a chance to give people some perspective on how they fit into the larger AFCENT mission. So any opportunity I have to talk with AFCENT Airmen makes my day; it's what keeps me going."

Sealey also stressed the significance of currently being deployed to the Middle East.

"I'm optimistic about the future in this region and the role our Airmen have to play," Sealey said. "The partnerships we're building will help contribute to lasting stability here. But if there is another contingency, we don't want to wait until then to reach out to our allies. So interacting and training with other nations now is imperative."

With each group of Airmen, Sealey ended with the same directive: "thank your families."

"We sacrifice a lot to deploy, but our families also sacrifice a great deal," he said. "They need to know that their sacrifice is appreciated, so tell your spouses, tell your parents, tell your kids 'thank you.'"