Resolving issues through the chain of command

  • Published
  • By Col. Toby Hammer
  • 934th Airlift Wing inspector general

One of my responsibilities as the installation Inspector General is to educate Airmen on the complaint resolution process. I accomplish this through newcomer's briefings, commander's calls, and general interaction with individuals I meet. In those briefings and discussions, I stress the importance of resolving issues through the chain of command.

This brief article contains a simplified definition of chain of command and thoughts on the role of the First Sergeant and is intended to stir conversations toward understanding.
The following chain of command definition is found in AFI 90-301, Inspector General Complaints Resolution, and is focused on resolving issues. It states that the "chain of command includes not only the succession of commanding officers from a superior to a subordinate through which command is exercised, but also the succession of officers, enlisted or civilian personnel through which administrative control is exercised including supervision and rating performance." Based on this definition, one can easily find their chain of command starting point by looking at their enlisted or officer performance reports and seeing the rating chain.

The most effective way of resolving most issues/complaints is through using this chain of command or an appropriately established grievance channel which can also be found in AFI 90-301. Complaints can often be quickly resolved by seeking assistance through an individual's chain of command, and he or she is encouraged to seek this avenue first. There are two reasons why. The first is because commanders and supervisors are charged with not only performing their unit's mission, but also with taking care of unit members. The second reason is commanders are empowered to solve problems and resolve issues within their organizations.

Another effective avenue for seeking assistance from within the unit is the first sergeant. Although not a part of the chain of command, the first sergeant parallels the unit chain of command and is one of the most capable individuals to handle concerns of unit members. He or she is there to help as an extension of the commander. While the first sergeant is the enlisted advisor to the commander, they are also available to assist the officers within the organization and should focus their efforts in developing a solid rapport with both the enlisted and officers.

Should you find, however, for one reason or another, that you are unable to resolve your issue through your chain of command or unit first sergeant, the Wing IG is another avenue. In fact, it's your right to contact the IG at any time. Public law states that you cannot be restricted from contacting the IG or punished for doing so.

Lastly, on the subject of first sergeants, the 934th Airlift Wing is in need of Airmen to answer the call to become first sergeants. It is a highly selective position, very demanding but incredibly rewarding. If you are a technical sergeant or master sergeant and are interested in learning more about the significant difference that you can make, please take the time to inquire with your own First Sergeant, or the Wing's Command. Chief.