The Developmental Special Duty (DSD) selection cycle is upon us yet again. There are many fears and hopes associated with the possibilities of being selected. Speaking from someone who held one of these positions in the past and as a current field training detachment chief, I would like to share some of my experiences.
Last week, our Career Adviser put together a briefing for those who are interested in the process and what each of the 10 DSD career fields had to offer. He had representation for all 10 career fields and I was fortunate enough to be able to speak about my experiences as a tech school instructor. Ironically, all of us had very similar experiences before, during and after our tour in the DSD.
The general theme was that everyone had reservations about getting outside of their comfort zones to do something completely different from their peers in their primary AFSC. However, once they got into that environment and saw the impact they could have on another’s life and career, they were excited. And afterwards, they were much better prepared to do great things once they returned to their primary career field.
My personal experience as a tech school instructor was from 2004-2008 at the field training detachment in Charleston. Then we had to compete for instructor slots and interview with detachment leadership. They chose who they thought would be the best fit for their teams. Our force was mainly voluntary with the exception of a few non-vols. All of the instructors had to learn how to teach and we all had additional duties running major programs for the unit. We were trusted to manage our own schedules and it forced us to become good at time and task management.
I went from barely being able to manage my daily schedule to being able to manage the monthly schedule of my 8-member team with relative ease. This alone was an amazing skill to carry with me back to my career field. Not to mention, all of the presentation skills I had learned, the amazing people I had rubbed elbows with over the years, and confidence knowing I could take on something outside of my comfort zone and do well with it.
Another huge difference from then and now is the perception from leaders in the units about those filling a DSD slot. When I came back to the flightline, I was accused of “being on vacation” for the past four years and I should expect the first deployment that drops. Nowadays, that has changed as most units have someone in senior leadership who was a previous DSD person and recognizes the value of the returning member.
Also, I do not have any official stats to back this up, but most of these people do very well with forced distribution when they return. Some of this is because they usually return with a CCAF in their primary career field and a second on in the DSD field. Most of it I suspect is from the feedback I receive on a routine basis from units where my instructors return to about how awesome they are. I wish I could claim some credit for this, but the truth is, they have just spent four years with others who are working their butts off and trying to improve themselves. This is contagious and takes on the “iron sharpens iron” feel. By the time they leave, they have mastered the management of their own lives.
If you are fortunate enough to be selected by your commander for vectoring into one of these positions, you should feel honored. This means your leadership sees you as a leader of others and sees some potential in you that you might not see. Out of the 15 DSD slots at our detachment there are about five who were chosen without volunteering. They all love their new gigs and one person actually separated after his time to pursue teaching.
If you are selected by your leadership, feel honored. If you are fortunate enough to choose whether to be vectored or not, choose DSD. It was the one job that set me up better for my career than any other.