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Deliberate Development

Professional Development for the Military Leader

Author

David Vasser

I have been learning from success and failure at how to lead for over 22 years. My passion to be a better leader has only grown with time. I hope to inspire as many people to grow in their path to leadership as I can.

Why bother with CCAF and Volunteering?

There are days that I wonder ‘when will all Airmen internalize the value of volunteering and getting their CCAF.’  The issue seems the same at each base (and those hater Facebook/twitter feeds) and WE need to fix it together.  What I see more often than not, is that MANAGERS are not explaining WHY decisions are made or WHY things are important from the mission to why these things matter.  That is on each and everyone of us to fix this “do it because I said” mentality.  Telling an Airman to do it because “I said” is chicken management.  There will be times when we all need to just check the rank and do as we are told, however that is the exception.  After 23 years I do not think there are more than 10 or 15 times that an order could not have been explained at least a little bit and the majority were pretty damn clear why (life/limb/catastrophic disaster).  So how do we grow leaders who can take the time and explain WHY tasks need to get done, well folks believe it or not it’s through that dreaded volunteer work and CCAF.

I’m going to say something now that I’ve told my Airmen to not quote me on many times without giving a full explanation, are you ready…I don’t care if you get a CCAF or volunteer.  Wait, what the hell did you just read?  That is right, I do not care.  It does not affect my life, it will not ruin my week and honestly it just shows me how much you care about growing as a human.  If all you want to do is be a team member and meet standards, we are GOOD.  Just expect a rating of “Met” on your EPR and you should never see MSgt.  This is business, not personal.  HOWEVER, you are limiting yourself and your Airmen and that is where you get my interest and involvement.  So why does the Air Force (or any organization across the civilian and government sector) need you to get that silly Associates Degree and work in the community?

First let’s be clear, it’s not the CCAF the AF needs you to get.  It’s continued education that we really desire.  We need each Airman to be dedicated to their continued mental development.  Enlisted Airmen join the Air Force only needing a high school diploma, officers need a bachelor’s degree.  That’s the starting point for a successful path of growing as a leader.  By going back to school, you are going to learn to write, research, and communicate DIFFERENTLY than we are going to teach you in the AF and that is a great thing.  It will also teach you how to present and defend an idea that is yours.  This is what that education gives you and since the AF is giving you a FREE path through the CCAF, why not use it?  Would you rather burn your own money?  You don’t like free things?  Seriously, why not?  I promise next year will be busier so the best time is NOW.  The continued education process gives you different teachers and peers that you need to persuade with your thoughts that you developed.  This is what the Air Force gets from you getting that CCAF; CRITICAL THINKING and COMMUNICATION skills.

Think about a child, any adult can drag them by their little arm and put their tail in a chair.  However, the person who connects with that child can talk them into WHY they want to be in that chair.  Whatever means they use, they are leading that child to do what they want and stand a better chance of that kid keeping their tail in that chair.  But we must be smarter than that child or we must convince them that our plan was best.  No parent stays effective by just stomping their feet and saying “do it because I said.”  That way of managing a kid will only last so long and corporal punishment will always bite back…ALWAYS.  How do you plan on leading your Airmen by just pointing and saying to do it?  If it will not work for a 5-year-old how is it going to work on a 25-year-old adult?  When you leave will they still do it even if they fear your stripes?  Do they talk about what a poor leader you are just because you always bark and yell?  The first day you are not there to bark and yell, it will go back to their way because you did not convince them WHY to do something or WHY it mattered.  This is where that CRITICAL THINKING and COMMUNICATION come to its real impact and purpose from that continued education and CCAF.

Now that you have this education why not try it somewhere else before you test out your “Jedi Mind Trick” skills on our workforce…well I got a solution for you on that!  Find something that stirs your SOUL and go volunteer there.  Don’t go to where everyone is going, go do something that makes you happy to be there.  If you are going to give ~10 hours a month, it better be worth it to you personally.  If it’s Habitat for Humanity or March of Dimes or a shelter or your base 5/6, just go.  Now that you are stuck in the first meeting look at those folks who are out front, they are telling you what to do and they have no power over you, yet you are going to do what they need done.  How did that happen?

I will grant you that you will do it partially out of self-desire since you wanted to be there but a good deal of it comes from them COMMUNICATING to you what needs to be done, why it needs to be done and how to get it done.  They know these things because of CRITICAL THINKING skills they have gained through either experience and/or education.  Good grief this all might connect.  Now think about yourself as a junior Airman, isn’t that how you want to be talked to about WHY something matters and how WE are going to get it done or did you just want to see a growling NCO/SNCO saying “do it or else?”  I know I don’t accept “do it because I said” very well, why would our Airman?  When volunteering, see if your peers or your subordinates want to go with you.  Motivate them with WHY this matters to YOU, tell them the great stories or how it makes you feel… I think we call that COMMUNICATION and CRITICAL THINKING that you gained with that continued education from that FREE CCAF!  No way it all connects!

This is the real benefit of the CCAF and volunteerism.  We gain leaders who are able to hear their Commander’s vision, review their piece of the mission and then critically think about how they can achieve that goal.  Then the leader will pass that to their subordinates and so forth.  The day will come when you don’t go to work because of an emergency or leave or something, when you get back if you truly led your Airmen the mission will not miss a beat.  Things will keep going, your Airmen will show off what they did to you, and the Commander will see how your team is ready for the next challenge.  That will then, without overselling, be seen on evaluations and promotions for your Airmen and you.  So go educate yourself, learn how to lead without those stripes and build a better force.

Best of luck out there LEADERS!

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6-Part Folder to Support Feedbacks

How many times have you wished that your supervisor had taken the time to develop you better?  How many years have you gone wishing that your supervisor had taken expended the energy to truly plan a feedback more than just an hour before you sat down?  How many of you honestly believe that your Airmen do not have the same dreams, desires and wishes of you?  I have had the same struggles in my career with supervisors but luckily, I have found a way that I believe shows my Airmen that I am invested in them, their career and the potential they have to be great in our Air Force.

We have all learned how to conduct a feedback from multiple PME courses and have even gained some insights from our peers in these classes.  I myself have developed my own process that I heavily derived from a feedback from my second supervisor, MSgt (ret) Doug Wilder (Thanks Doug E. Doug).  I was just a SrA and he told me to keep a 6-part folder on myself so that I could track my career.  The next year when I was given my first Airman to supervise, he told me to create the same folder for him.  Doug also suggested that I keep a copy of the folder so that I would always know about my Airman on a moment’s notice.  This has become my primary feedback tool ever since then.

I am going to assume based on where most of you are in your careers that you there are some basics that we don’t need to cover.  Such as how to get to know your Airmen, pick a good feedback location, and gather background knowledge from other leaders about your Airman.  If you are unsure what I am talking about, please seek out your supervisor or bust open your Airman’s Handbook Section 22D (formerly PDG) and get to reading.

Let’s start with the foundation.  Each Airman MUST get 3 (THREE) formal feedbacks a year (only two on a 931/932) IAW AFI 36-2406.  Yes, three feedbacks, people.  The three types of feedback are;

  1. Initial Feedback: Within 60 days of being assigned as the Rater (within certain other guidelines outlined in AFI 36-2406).
  2. Mid-Term Feedback: At the midpoint during the evaluation year (within certain other guidelines outlined in AFI 36-2406).
  3. Upon receipt of the completed EPR: It shocks and frustrates me how often this is not done. This is a formal feedback session folks!  The EPR should ONLY be delivered BY THE RATER TO THE RATEE!  NEVER by vPC.  Raters do not be lazy.  Get the EPR once it is signed by the Commander and sit down and discuss it.  Explain YOUR markings, YOUR bullets and why the Commander gave the specific Forced Distribution marking.  If you do not know, then get the information from your Flight and Squadron Leadership.  There is absolutely no reason an Airman should ever sign their EPR and not be given some sort of verbal feedback (face to face or telephonic) on what each word and mark means.  They deserve it.  They worked for you for the year.  This is also the first part of your initial feedback for the new year.  Get on it!

Now that we have covered when to conduct a feedback lets discuss how to conduct the feedback with my 6-part folder idea.  Use the standard brown 6-part UDM folders.  They work great for this.  Get a few and keep them for each Airman you supervise.

Tab 1: Biographical Data.  In this section, we are going to have some basics such as a SURF and Bio worksheet which I have created.  For SNCOs, we will add the Wing’s SNCO Stratification Worksheet (known by different names at different bases) and the Data Verification Brief.  The intent of this tab is to have the basics of FACTS about your Airman.  This is how the system sees your Airman.  Remember, “YOU ARE YOUR RECORDS.”

This is the first place that a feedback should start also.  If there are errors on the SURF, then you must get them fixed.  For a TSgt and below this is a chance to discuss the value of accurate records and how it matters for promotion boards.  If your records look sloppy, then you look sloppy to the promotion board, and your board score could reflect.  For example, having duplicate Duty Titles without changes except the date is lazy.  Incorrect information shows a lack of attention to detail.  We all learned at basic training, when we were folding our sheets, to pay attention to details.  The same is true for these records of fact on our Airmen and the feedback session is a perfect opportunity to impart that on them about their records because as we all know, “YOU ARE YOUR RECORDS.”

Tab 2: EPRs and Feedbacks.  I ask each ratee to give me their three most recent EPRs before I became their supervisor.  I then add each Feedback and EPR I write with them to this tab (newest on top).  For an initial feedback, we go through previous EPRs (along with Tab 1).  I tell them what I see as their career trajectory based on their SURF (add Strat Worksheet and DVB for SNCOs) and their 3 most recent EPRs.  We discuss this prior to reviewing the AF931/932 I wrote, so that we have a starting point for our discussion.  Basically, we are just setting the stage.  This is where I ask the Airman to tell me what they think their trajectory is and what they want out of a career.

It is your duty as a Rater to have the hard conversation with your Airman and tell them what is possible and what is not.  If they are an 18-year TSgt with an Article 15 this year and a Do Not Promote EPR on top, do NOT tell them they will make Chief.  It cannot be done.  I also want to make another point, not everyone needs to be or should want to be a Chief.  The system is built to only allow 1% to make Chief and I will tell you the demands are HIGH.  Supervisors have a duty to the Airman and the Air Force to find the rank that their Airman can be the most successful at.  When they reach that unique point, they will be happiest and most productive and also feel the most fulfilled.  Do not make the mistake of promoting them beyond their abilities, it is a detriment to the Air Force, other Airmen and themselves.

Next, we will conduct the actual feedback.  My initial is the same for each person in the same rank.  We will discuss some individual specifics, but the words are the same for each initial feedback.  With the changes to our feedback forms I had to add an AF174 for more space.  Yes, I use a Letter of Counseling to supplement a feedback; after all what is feedback but counseling, plain and simple.  One of the things I need space for is to list 6 lines that are fill in the blank.  Three for the Airman and three for me.  As we are wrapping up the feedback session I ask each Airman to write their three goals for the EPR year.  The goals are to be a combination of personal AND professional.  Additionally, I will write three goals for them, I base mine on what has transpired during the feedback session and getting to know them.  For some of the Airmen it is a degree, some it is more family time, some it is a vacation, some it is a certification, some it is to complete a 10K run.  The goals do not matter as long they follow the SMART formula.  These goals are important, because they are the foundation for the mid-term feedback session.  It is the way that WE will see how WE worked together as a TEAM to achieve the Airmen’s stated desires for the year.  WE must make efforts towards them otherwise WE are not doing our job.

Tab 3: Training/PT/PIMR/Mobility Stats:  This tab is simple.  Before each feedback, I ask for an updated print out of critical mobility stats.  Full ADLS, PT, PIMR, etc.  Each job and location would have something different but this is basically a chance to personally review all documents and ensure that I have seen what is in the records, what the UTM/UDM/UFPM and the member are all tracking as facts.  We are all supposed to be worldwide deployable, so as a supervisor this is a good time to check these data points with 3 feedback sessions a year.

Tab 4: Monthly Bullets/Write ups: For junior Airmen (TSgt and below) I have them provide me 5 bullets a month on what they were doing.  I have two driving forces behind this.  One was my own laziness.  When EPR time comes around, I already have a folder with all the bullets I need ready to go.  I could just pick the ones I want and turn in the EPR.  The EPR should take me 30 minutes tops and it is over.  Same goes for Quarterly and Annual Awards.  Additionally, if a last-minute award comes down, I could always turn in a rough draft in 20 minutes.  Second, was each month I got to work on developing the writing skills with my Airman.  They had to keep improving the bullets and doing the research to make them solid.  This way all the hard work of the bullet writing was taken care of during the month when the actions were fresh in everyone’s mind.  This made it much easier during EPR and Award seasons.  I also keep copies of any Awards I write the Airman up for on this tab.  It’s just another copy of the bullets that I can use later.  It also reminds me that they may have won a specific award that needs to be accounted for in their EPR or EOT Medal.

Tab 5: Previous Orders (TDY/PCS): I like to keep a copy of TDY and PCS orders for my Airmen.  You never know when this will come in handy.  They might get a TDY that results in a medal, or a voucher gets messed up.  Since I keep these folders, they will always know there is another person they can reach back to.

Tab 6: Airman Benefit Fact Sheet: This is to be briefed to each Airman at each feedback.  First term Airmen I will go through every paragraph.  As an Airman progresses in their career I will shorten how much time I spend covering the Fact Sheet based on their knowledge and the point they are in their career.  For a First or Second Term Airman that is getting close to a separation decision I will go through it with additional detail.  For SNCOs I will glaze over the highlights of the document.  Each case is individualized.  What I do offer each Airman to go through it and to initial and date it with each feedback.  Just like the entire feedback, this is tailored to the Airman and their education and life needs.

Each section allows me to effectively evaluate the whole Airman and review it at any time, so I can prepare them for a great career in the Air Force.  Dividing the folder into sections is an effective way to organize the information that is relevant to the Airman.  They have access to this folder at any time.  My intention is for us to share the information as a team effort as they progress through their career.

There are two major benefits to all of this work.  If the Airman creates their own folder, they can follow their career as I have mine.  I can go all the way back to my first supervisor and see how each and every supervisor has rated me on feedbacks and EPRs.  I can see my trends and use them for self-reflection.  Has more than one person said I do not do enough for primary duties?  Have I focused too much on volunteer work?  What are my trends as a ratee?  I can see all the markings on each feedback and EPR in a single place (I will admit, my 6-part folder is now a binder after 22 years).  Seeing my whole career in one convenient place, allows me to have that hard conversation with myself.  I had to stop blaming my raters for my markings and own my shortfalls in order to make the changes I needed so that I can lead my Airmen better.

As a Rater, having these 6-part folders (I’ve got a bunch now) allow me to evaluate myself over a long period of time.  I can see how I have developed as a rater over the years when reviewing multiple folders.  Do I have trends in my rating?  Do I always rate education too hard?  Am I always rating communication skills to soft?  Do I hate on the volunteer heroes?  What are my trends as a rater over my career and do I need to make adjustments?  I get to critique myself and build a consistent standard set for each rank.  This ensures that I am being as fair as possible to set and enforce USAF standards.  I get to grade myself in a way that nobody else does and I hope that makes me a better rater for my Airmen.

We will have our own way to care for our Airmen.  Each of us have best practices that can help everyone do a better job of taking care of our most valuable resource, our Airmen.  I have used this process for almost 2 decades and many Airmen have taken parts of it for their own use to match their leadership styles.  I hope you all found something good from this and wish you the best in caring for our Airmen.

Targeting Your Feedback

Have you ever wondered how to get that one Airman to do exactly what you want?  Ever wanted to find the way to motivate them so they will do what is needed even when you are not around?  Picture that one Airman, we all have one, that you know deep in your heart is going to be great.  All they need is inspiration or adjustment of their current habits, to get in line with Air Force and unit standards.  Believe it or not, feedback (formal and informal) is the best way to achieve your goal, but it will take some work on your part that will give you the rewards you so desire.

I have struggled and watched others struggle with giving feedback for years now.  For some leaders, they do not know how to precisely give the appropriate level of feedback (formal and informal) for what the Airman has done.  For me, I have found that feedback is similar to Targeting.  It helps that I was a Targeteer for a few years so it was easy for me to make this comparison since I was very comfortable with the job and knew it well.  However, you could make the comparison between feedback and changing a jet engine, processing an evaluation or any other task we have in the Air Force.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the Targeting career field, let me explain a little bit about a Targeteer first before I get to feedbacks.  A Targeteer must know a Commanders Objectives and Guidance for the current war or contingency.  They will research and analyze the target, the area of responsibility, and the resources (munitions and delivery platforms) at their disposal.  They will then decide the best way to ACHIEVE THE DESIRED EFFECTS to ensure they meet the Commanders Objectives and Guidance.  It is about EFFECTS based operations at all times.  Any fool can throw 10K pounds of munitions down range but what EFFECT are you going to achieve and is it the one you want to achieve?  Any supervisor can talk at an Airman for hours, but what EFFECT are you going to have and is it the one you want to achieve?  You must analyze your Airmen, decide on the proper kind of feedback, and then choose how to employ the feedback.  If you do not do this, then you could end up wasting your Airman’s time and sending them on the wrong path, which could result in them separating or ignoring your valuable guidance.

First and foremost, you must know your target/Airman and where they are at.  For a Targeteer they use Precise Point Mensuration to determine the exact location on the Earth that a target is at.  Without this, the weapon will not hit the correct corner of the building or it will miss the bridge and potentially hit a school.  The first-line supervisor must know as much as possible about their Airman.  Is the Airman moving up, slowing down, having financial issues, starting a new family, do they work shift work, do they hate public ceremonies, do they thrive on public events, and more?  Feedback must be precise and purposeful and requires you to know your Airman’s whole story.  Without knowing all aspects of your Airman, your feedback will not achieve the desired EFFECT you are looking for.   I believe this is important because it will help you shape the kind of feedback you give.

Now that the Targeteer has the Precise Point on the earth for the munition, they must then choose the munition.  The Targeteer will choose from multiple bombs based on what is available in theater.  Anything from a GBU-12 (500 pound) to GBU-31v3 (2K pound Penetrator).  Each target needs a different munition and each Airman for each action needs a different feedback.  If you are going to just give a mid-term feedback, then using an AF 931 in a private room is the right course of action.  Schedule your hour session, be prepared, and fill out the form.  If the Airman is a great Airman, then you should be very casual and start with a soft tone, thanking them for doing a great job.  If they have had some trouble, but are improving, and you want to build a positive foundation on their progress, then you will highlight their improvements.  If your Airman has been “hitting the big time,” with not showing to work on time, disrespecting coworkers, not completing tasks, then you might need to up the ante and get some LOC/LOA/LORs rolling.  Another highly underutilized resource at your disposal is the positive paperwork.  Using an LOC to praise an Airman can work towards overcoming their previous missteps.  For example, if you’ve written two negative LOC’s for no-showing to work, and the Airman spends the next 90 days showing up 15 minutes early each day, it is time to use an LOC to highlight improvements.

When that PIF is opened for EPR season, it will go a LONG way.  I’m saying this from experience as a three-time Squadron Superintendent.  I love seeing positive LOCs!  Additionally, NEVER, EVER do a desk drawer PIF.  It hurts you as a supervisor and your Squadron Command team.  It tells your Airman you do not have faith in your Squadron Commander, Superintendent and Shirt to see when they recover.  It says that you as a supervisor have no ability to articulate their recovery and that your Command Team cannot see the person beyond the paper.  It is just bad business all around.  Just write the positive LOC and it will out weight the other LOC.

Now that you know your munition, it’s time to figure out how to employ it on the battlefield.  When a Targeteer figures out that they want to put 4xGBU-12s they need to make sure they get the right jet(s).  Sometimes it’s one F-15E Strike Eagle.  Other times it will be a four ship of Strike Eagles or two B-1s.  How you bring the munitions to the fight can matter just as much as the munitions themselves.  For feedback, this is the exact same.  Think about it this way; a pat on the back from a supervisor is one thing.  It is good and says you did good and on a daily basis that is needed and positive for doing daily tasks.  However, getting the Wing Commander and Chief to come down to *immediately* pat your Airman on the back for turning a jet faster than anyone or creating a process that saved the MPF hundreds of hours a month, might get you better EFFECTS with your Airman and those in the shop.  If you know the Airman likes public recognition and you know the pat on the back or the coin is the proper feedback, bringing the Wing CC/Chief down might be the exact delivery platform that is required.  This is the same for the negative.  If your Airman has been just failing to drag their tail to work, it might be time for a visit to the First Sergeants office in Service Dress.  Putting on the Service Dress and marching by the entire Orderly Room brings an EFFECT to their mind.  Having to put the jacket together has a mental EFFECT.  That First Sergeant is a tremendous delivery platform that can help multiply your desired EFFECT on your Airman.

In warfare, the Targeteer thinks about the Second and Third order of EFFECTS of their operations.  When a building is blown up, the enemy knows about it and they must adjust their behaviors around the Targeteers actions.  The associated units (other Airmen) will adjust their actions based on the EFFECTS that are put on the battlefield.  As a first-line supervisor, know that you are always being watched.  The EFFECT is not only on the Airman you gave feedback to, but also on those around that Airman.  If the feedback is done in public, then the other Airmen will see how YOU care about your Airman.  They will know you care enough to give them the day off that they value OVER the public praise they do not like.  BELIEVE that they all talk to each other.  What you do good for one, the others will soon know, what you do bad for one the others will soon know too.  To reiterate, know what your Airman values, not what the Chief is telling you to give them (I say this as a Chief, I would like to hear a MSgt say my Airman wants X)!  Not everyone values a Quarterly Award (don’t believe the hype).   This is your Second and Third order of EFFECTS.  Soon you will be the “go-to” NCO/SNCO.  You will be rewarded with Airmen lining up asking for your advice on EPRs and career and even life decisions.

Before concluding, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a major shortfall we have ALL suffered from when giving feedback/mentorship to our Airmen, negative feedback.  As humans, we want to be liked and it gets in our way at times of telling the honest truth that our Airmen need to hear.  We owe it to our Airmen to tell the hard truth to give the negative feedback when they need it.  I remember being told when I was falling short more than I remember when I was doing my best work.  It made me who I am today.  We learn more from our mistakes then our successes.  I am so grateful to those leaders for having the AIRMANSHIP to strap on their boots and tell me what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear.  As a leader, once you have experienced conducting a rebuilding feedback session that is done professionally and on target for both members, you will see that giving feedback (both positive and negative) is crucial to building a better work force.  A good Airman will thank you for it every time.

Supervision and Leadership is a contact sport and a time-consuming process.  I promise you that there is nothing more demanding and rewarding. Once you take the time and ensure that you know your Airman, you can then choose how to motivate, mold, and develop them to the Airman you know they can be.  Spend the time on them that they deserve and you will be rewarded in multiple ways.  You will gain an Airman that trusts you, that will work for you, and that will grow hundreds more that will continue to ensure our nation is safe for generations to come.

Why Do I Continue To Serve?

As a 22 year SNCO in the USAF I have been asked the question “Why do you continue to serve” many times.  It is usually posed as: Why did I join and why do I continue to serve past 20 years?  Simply put it is because I freaking LOVE this career.  There is nothing better to do and I cannot imagine doing anything else today.  I honestly do not want to do anything else because I get such great pleasure from caring for the Airmen that defend this Nation every day.  I know no greater joy than having an Airman succeed when they thought they could not, just because I was able to remove a barrier for them.  But it was not always like that.

My Air Force career began like most Airmen.  My life did not have a path or plan.  I just needed to go find a way to get a paycheck and a skill.  As my career advanced, so did my responsibilities, as a husband and father which led me to reenlist.  As I stayed longer, I was maturing and slowly coming to realize that serving in the Air Force was more than just paying the bills but was a possible career for me.  I did not notice that the Air Force was becoming as much a part of me as I was a part of it.

Eventually I was given the honor and privilege of becoming a Squadron Superintendent.  It was a turning point for me.  I had always sworn ‘I would do my 20 years and RUN away’ or ‘this was just a job’ or ‘this was a way to care for my family’ or ‘this was just something I was doing until I got a real job.’  However, when that Lt Col picked me to be his Superintendent something happened.  My world changed forever and I am so thankful.  It was not only a “significant emotional event” as he would say.  This was THE significant emotional (and THE transformational) event of my career.

Those two years as the Superintendent taught me so much and finally shaped why I continue to serve today (8 years later).  It taught me that my calling was not to make widgets as much as I thought it was.  It was to make the lives better for those who make the widgets.  Without them we cannot fly, fight or win.  My job was to remove the barriers for those who do greatness.  It was to stand beside the Commander and help them make the hardest decisions so that the Airmen could just go do greatness.

I will tell you the first time you make an Airman’s life better, all the meetings and taskers and eSSS’ are worth it.  With each Airman who got home to their family quicker or received the assignment they needed or the cross training they wanted, it keeps getting better.  As each year has progressed I have loved this job more and more every day.  I cannot believe they pay me to do this and for the Airmen is why I continue to serve, so they can just do the job they love.

Recently I was reminded how similar my story is to many other Airmen.  When talking to a fellow SNCO about his Air Force Anniversary he wrote this to me:

“I enlisted because I didn’t have direction. I wasn’t succeeding in college (a 0.8 GPA!), lacked focus, and was feeling bummed out that my entitled dreams weren’t magically happening. Broke, I signed up with a ‘why not’ attitude, rather than a call to join the profession of arms.

My basic training instructor asked why I enlisted. I replied, “I don’t have anything better to do this week…” and I was telling the truth. That NCO thought I was being a smart-ass trainee, I did a lot of push-ups that day.

15 years later, I still feel that way, but for a different reason. The Air Force is made up of amazing people working to achieve goals bigger than themselves. We admittedly have challenges, but I believe that my service’s heart is in the right place. Our mission makes this country a bit safer, and we can count on each other as part of that team.

Point is, I still can’t think of ANYTHING better to do than this.”

Jon joined for his own reasons, but his reason to continue to serve has evolved just like mine.  He sees the greater things that all Airmen can do, which is to serve each other.  He has grown as a SNCO who I am so proud to have in my Squadron caring for our Airmen.  I have watched him take care of Airmen and place them in jobs where they have done more than they knew they could.  They received recognition and rewards that he ensured they received.  Many NCOs have come up to me saying what an impact he has had on them because of his leadership.  He is just one example of the many great SNCOs serving today that have realized the value and rewards of serving their Airmen and the Air Force.

We all may join for our own reasons, but when you get to the root of why any good SNCO continues to serve, they do it for their Airmen.  The Airmen that every day put their faith in their SNCO to take care of them.  The Airmen that know we will make their lives better, ensure they are prepared to defend the nation, held to standards and provided the rewards they earn for excellence not participation.  Great SNCOs continue to serve to provide their Airmen with an example of the opportunities that await them when they are the SNCOs.  I never could have imagined in December of 1994 that the plane ride out of Los Angeles would have brought me here today.  I am so grateful that I have the honor and privilege of serving Airmen, now why are you serving today?

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