Working for Airmen: 92nd ARW Command Chief shares parting wisdom ahead of retirement

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  • By 92ARW Public Affairs
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Since July 2022, Chief Master Sgt. William Arcuri has served as the 92nd Air Refueling Wing command chief, supporting nearly 4,500 Airmen and over 10,000 members of Team Fairchild who provide global reach and airpower in support of worldwide combat, contingency and humanitarian requirements.

A native of York, Pennsylvania, Arcuri entered the Air Force directly after high school. He served six years as a nuclear weapons maintainer in North Dakota and Italy before cross-training into electrical power production in 2001. During his career, Arcuri deployed eight times and served in leadership roles at seven home-station and six deployed units throughout the Pacific, North American, European and Central theaters.

Upon earning the rank of chief master sergeant, Arcuri promised to “Work for Airmen,” a creed he upholds to this day. As the 92nd ARW command chief, he engages with base and community organizations and teams to identify the needs of the Total Force and provide the support necessary to execute Global Reach operations.  

Before relinquishing his responsibilities as command chief on July 2, 2024, and retiring from active duty on March 1, 2025, Arcuri shared his perspective on leadership, taking care of Airmen and his experience as the senior enlisted leader of Team Fairchild.

Q1: What were your goals coming into the 92ARW as the command chief?

A1: I knew that there was going to be a list of tasks, opportunities and, most importantly, places to make a difference. I didn't list out or have specific goals and specific lines of effort coming in because I wanted to come in eyes wide open. Having never been stationed at Fairchild and having never been in the air refueling community, I was not coming in as the subject matter expert and didn't want to be. I wanted to come in and find out where I could support folks and how I can make a difference in their lives and hopefully leave this place better than I found it.

As I sat down with Col. Dycus through the process leading up to here, I found out that he was of like mind, and he didn't want to establish long, flowery mission and vision statements and lines of effort. He wanted to focus on his priorities of Airmen, mission and culture. Coming in off the bat, I knew that we were going to align ourselves by looking for ways to take care of Airmen and their families and create or continue to propagate a proper culture that gives them the opportunity for success. This included promoting a culture of a healthy work-personal life balance that prioritized taking care of our own families as well.

Q2: Do you think coming into a new assignment with an open mind is something all SELs, commanders and leaders should do?

A2: In most circumstances, I would say yes. We were coming into a highly performing organization. There are times though, throughout my career, where I've stepped into a not highly performing organization or shop or squadron. And when I had those moments, I had to look at things differently, and I had to come in with the focus needed to establish a winning strategy for that organization.

We had to come in and see how we could take this wing to the next level. That was why we weren't focused on looking for ways to improve it. It depends on the organization, so every SEL must evaluate the organization they're coming into and decide how long they want to learn and what they want the desired end state to be. For us, the desired end state was leaving it better than we found it.

Q3: How do you feel you and Col. Dycus have done with regard to your goal of leaving the 92nd ARW better than you found it?

A3: I don't want to speak for Col. Dycus, although I think he feels the same way. I feel like I left it better than I found it. Coming in in the summer of 2022, we were still shaking off a few of the cobwebs from COVID. We were still in a position where we didn't have all the indoor recreation space that we should have had. We still don't, we're still not where we need to be, but we're better than we were.

Having the Red Morgan Center and the Alder House open was a huge win for us very early in our time here. Right now, we're beginning the project to build the new base operations center. The excitement we have in seeing that large scale military construction project getting to a place where it's ready to begin is something lets us know we're leaving the installation a better place than we found it. Not to say that it was in bad shape because, again, it was a high-performing organization. I know that throughout my time here, I've tried to foster and propagate relationships that make our lives and the Airmen’s lives better. I feel like they are in a better position now than they were two years ago.

Q4: One of your mottos is “I work for Airmen.” From that perspective, is there a particular accomplishment or milestone that stand out to you from your time at the wing?

A4: Yes, I'm incredibly proud of the things that the people do on the installation: We have Airmen who were the 18th Air Force Airmen of the Year and NCOs who were competing at AMC for high-level awards.  Time and time again, we see this wing performing well above anything that we could have imagined. We won the Omaha Trophy, I think for the fifth time or sixth time, and the Neil Fosseen award.

Time and again, our Airmen are being recognized for their excellence. For me, it's all of those Airmen and, at the same time, having individual conversations with them. So often I hear stories of someone who made a difference in their life: their supervisor, their first sergeant or their chief. Being part of that by trying to create that proper culture where leaders are taking care of their Airmen across the board is important to us. I feel like our Airmen are in a healthy, empowered culture that gives them the opportunity to really succeed. I feel like they're taken care of and in turn, taking care of other Airmen. I feel like that's what I'm most proud of.

Q5: You mentioned “taking care of Airmen” a few times. What does that mean to you as an Airman and a command chief?

A5: It's keeping my decision making focused on what is best for the collective Airmen of the installation. Sometimes that is very individually focused, like getting ahold of someone at the Air Force Personnel Center – sometimes the AFPC command chief – and saying, “I have an Airman who is struggling with X, and I really need your help on this.” I found that when I'm helping that one individual Airman, even if it doesn't go as we would hope, they're grateful and they're still motivated because they feel like someone is trying to help them out along the way.

One of my former command chiefs used to always say to me, “I want to make a difference in one Airman's life every single day.” I always feel that way. If I make a difference in 3,000 Airmen’s lives, that's incredible. If I make a difference in one Airman's life, that's incredible. That's my measure of success every single day. What that looks like is very situational. Helping Airmen and working for Airmen sometimes is gathering or leveraging resources, sometimes it's getting more manpower and sometimes it's giving guidance. Sometimes it's giving guidance that Airmen don't want to hear or telling them what they don't want to hear. But through it all, I found that Airmen as a whole appreciate and are more motivated if they feel like their chiefs, senior enlisted leaders and commanders have their best interest in mind and at heart.

Q6: What is the best piece of advice that you either received or you'd like to offer Team Fair and Airmen across the Air Force?

A6: The best advice I could give any Airman would probably be advice that was given to me by a psychologist when I was going through a personal challenge and figuring out who I was. She said something that stuck with me my entire career, and I go back to it all the time: “It's never the end of the world until it is.”

So many times, I see our Airmen facing frustrations. Sometimes it's frustrations with the bureaucracy, with a piece of equipment, with their supervisors, their subordinates or their peers because let's just face it, we all want to do a great job, but we don't always all agree on how to do said job. Because of that, there's often conflict that arises. Whatever that conflict is that you're feeling, just breathe and say to yourself, “Is this the end of the world? Are our planes falling out of the sky? Are we in an Armageddon-type scenario?”  If not, there’s no reason to act like it is.

I say that, but I still I can get wound up – especially when I feel like an Airman is being done a disservice or something like that – I can definitely get spun up and I'm ready to go. So I understand that, but I have to tell myself, “It's never the end of the world until it is.”  I just have to put my head down and solve the problem. Don't fight the scenario, just solve the problem and we'll get to the other end of it. That would be something I feel a lot of Airmen need to hear, across the installation and across the Air Force. Know what is truly important in your life and it will help you prioritize your time and tasks properly. For me, that includes remembering that my wife, Nikki is the most important person in the world.

NOTE: Chief Arcuri’s other favorite “nuggets of wisdom” include:

  • Live in your 3-foot world. (Focus on the things you can touch)
  • Do it, do it right, do it right the first time.
  • Judge other’s actions on their intentions, and judge your intentions on your actions.

Q7: You’re retiring from the Air Force after 30 years of service. How would you like to be remembered?

A7: I always keep this little moleskin journal with me, and I’m always jotting stuff down like meeting notes all of those things. I went back to that first one because I remembered that when I became a chief, or when I was getting ready for my chief induction ceremony, Public Affairs was interviewing us and asked, “How you want to be remembered as a chief?” I looked back at the notes I jotted down to see if I felt like I fit the mold because that was a little over 10 years ago that I became a chief. At that time, my goal was to be remembered as a chief who was steadfast, who was a proactive problem solver and who was reliable during the most difficult times or tasks. I hope that I've done that.

Through it all, I feel like I haven't wavered on certain things. I haven't wavered on trying to have a bias for action. I haven't wavered on trying to always work for Airmen and giving them the money, manpower, resources and materials they need to get after the day-to-day job. I feel I never wavered.

I've tried to go after problems when I see them come up. Some of those problems I only know about when an Airman brings them to me, but I always tried to take action, even if that action is just gathering information, providing information and or delegating it someone who can solve the problem. I try to hand them off to the right people and then follow up to make sure that whatever problem needs to be solved, got solved.

As for reliability, I had a lot of challenging mission sets throughout my career up until the point that I was a chief, and I feel like that's why I cued in on that one. I want to be remembered as being reliable during the tough times. I feel like I was there sometimes just by happenstance. I've had some significant things: being in Iraq in 2003, then again, 2006 and 2009 – I have been in and out of deployments, I've had eight deployments. Through those events, I had a lot of tough things that have occurred. I was in Japan during Operation Tomodachi, when we had the earthquake and tsunami at the main island, so that was a very difficult time. I felt like I was reliable then, even though I wasn't a chief yet. But all those things throughout my career led to me becoming a chief. I thought, “I'm gonna keep having these hard things that happen, and I'm going to try and make sure I'm there for folks when they need me.” Through it all, I mostly tried to be reliable when Nikki needed me to be, whether I was at home or deployed.

When I look back on it, I would never give myself an A+ because I could have improved. Maybe I'm a solid B- in there somewhere, but I tried to get after those three things, and I feel like I did okay over time in being steadfast, proactive and reliable.