I am not sure where I heard this, but we shouldn’t strive to be better than others. We will work ourselves into the ground and chase multiple targets as we see them excel in some new area. Instead, we should strive to be better than we were yesterday. Improve in one area of your life today by just 1% and you will be better. Keep doing this and you will be the person everyone is striving to become.
It is amazing how many times I have said this, but have failed. I allow others to pollute my mind or temperament by listening to their nonsensical ideas. When this does happen I try to stop and ask myself why I even care in the first place. If they are sharing an opinion about something that will not impact me 5 minutes after I walk away, I walk away or simply listen. If it is something that can’t be ignored, I do my best to get to the root of the issue and keep out all of the extra garbage people try to dump in there.
Enter basic military training with some college, CAP or JROTC under your belt and A1C is sewn on for Graduation Day. Make SrA Below-the-Zone and sew on before the cutoff date and you’re promotion eligible for Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.
There’s a long-standing debate of whether someone is “ready” for the next rank, regardless of how soon or fast they are selected to advance.
I’ll quote CMSAF Wright when he said: “Leadership isn’t about rank or position. It’s not about having all the answers. It’s about getting into the trenches and taking care of your people… Never discount what you bring to your team.”
Yes, there will be those a bit “salty” for what seems to be a faster-than-light promotion system, but let’s think of just some of the factors that got us here.
The Air Force NEEDS more NCOs. This isn’t a want… It’s a nessesity. 15 years of combat operations will do that to any military. Our front-line ranks need replenishing.
So what now? Do we scoff at the hyper-green soon-to-be SSgt? Nope. Not even a little bit. That’s just counterproductive towards our team goal. We can’t fly, fight or win anything if we are at odds with our own people.
What we NEED are mentors. And we needed them yesterday. If you are a mentor to someone who is junior to you and are downloading every bit of professional development that you’ve received into your Airman, you’re doing your part. The only way that we’re going to see a stronger, faster, and more committed force is when we act like a team. Again, the Air Force is going to promote people based on the system we have. And for those selected with minimal time in service… moving up from JV to Varsity is going to have it’s own challenges that they will have to deal with and grow from. The question is: Are you doing your part to make the team…work?
My post this past Monday touched on this. Our title is not what defines us, it is our action. I have been fortunate enough to have been placed in situations where I was in charge even though I did not out rank my teammates. Trying to “flex” my title would have resulted in me getting stuffed in a locker or something. Instead I had to show I was willing to roll up my sleeves and do the job too. Setting an example through action showed the team I was not in it for the positional perks, but for the betterment of the team.
76 years ago a giant was awoken as the Empire of Japan attacked our land. From that moment on, our military might has been known and revered throughout the globe. Our ability to come together as a nation was also witnessed on this day. The leaders who shaped our service were forged in this moment. As we take time to remember those who were there, also take time to think about what legacy we are leaving for those to follow 76 years from today.
Tis the season. The holidays are upon us as are the SSgt SCOD EPRs. One of the most frequent questions we are asked during this time frame is how can push our SSgts higher on the list for Forced Distribution? I think the better question is how should a SSgt EPR read?
To be clear: I am not talking solely about making people look good on paper. I am suggesting that we need to be developing our members throughout the year and capture their efforts on paper. I am not a fan of “inflating” our teammates for the sake of EPRs.
The greatest piece of Air Force literature still remains to be the 36-2618 (Enlisted Force Structure). This book has been about 90% accurate for every new rank I have made and has provided me guidance on what to strive for when my supervisors did not. In there, it discusses what a SSgt “should” look like. They “are primarily highly skilled technicians with supervisory and training responsibilities.” This quickly read statement holds the keys to being a good SSgt.
Highly skilled technician: know your job. SSgts should be able to do their job with no one looking over their shoulders. No one should be coming behind them to fix their mistakes. They are trusted to care for their piece of the pie.
Example: SSgt Lawrence troubleshot and fixed landing gear issue… He generated 100 missions throughout the year… etc. are all examples of this. How is the SSgt doing their job well? Bullets showing job skills are often “me” focused.
Supervisory responsibilities: Typically, this is where you are a first-time supervisor with some Airmen to shepherd. You have CDCs to track, EPRs to write, feedbacks to perform, dorm inspection fails, and all of the other supervisory challenges that come with this new role.
Example: SSgt Lawrence challenged Airman X to get an 85% on CDCs… He led a volunteer clean-up event… These bullets usually show one-on-one leadership impacts or small team efforts.
Training responsibilities: Teach new Airmen and newly assigned teammates how to do their jobs. Also, teaching your subordinates how to be in the service.
Example: SSgt Lawrence trained 5 Airmen on 200 core tasks… He became the unit CPR instructor… Again, these are one-on-one or small team efforts.
A good SSgt EPR shows a mixture of all three of these things.
Now to take this up a notch to develop great SSgts, you need to show how they are ready for the next stripe. TSgts are the “organization’s technical experts.” This is a detail often overlooked as most SSgts are so skilled, they assume they are the technical experts already. I see this all the time as they say, “I am an expert, I can do that task in half the time of my peers.” That is the definition of highly skilled.
Technical expertise is when you know your job so well that you are solving problems. “Noticed trend of #4 main tires being changed out-of-cycle. Discovered factory bolt installed backwards on all block 11 aircraft.” A different way to say this is that highly skilled technicians are hands-on experts and technical experts are able to connect the dots of a bigger picture based on their skills.
Work to develop your SSgts to 1) be very good at being “highly skilled technicians with supervisory and training responsibilities.” as discussed above. and then 2) teach them to take a step back to see the whole picture and help them connect the dots to solve problems not to simply fix discrepancies.
As you do this, they will grow in their supervisor and trainer roles organically. You can’t solve problems without leading a team of leaders or training people on a mass scale to implement a smarter solution.
The best leaders in my life have always been those who are willing to fulfill whatever role is needed. When we let our positions, job titles, egos or pride drive what we are willing to do, we are putting ourselves before the mission. We need to look for the gaps or weak links and be ready to step in to mentor and move the team forward.
I can’t tell you how many jobs I approached with fear. “There is no way I can do that!” or “I will never be as good as <predecessor>.” Almost every time, I was able to do the task and sometimes as good as those who came before me. I learned there is an initial fear of the work ahead. Once I understood there was a learning curve and knew I would have to work to learn, my journey was still arduous, but it was possible in my own mind. Don’t look at the next thing with fear of what you can’t do; rather, think about all of the times you did succeed.
Everyone these days has a platform to shout at the world from. What’s been lost is understanding that perspectives differ and that we don’t all need to agree in our views. I had a professor once explain perspective as watching a football game from seats in different areas of the stadium or, what’s more, if those spectators had arrived to the game at different times. Each of those people have a different view and opinion on the game. That perspective changes further when you mix in emotion–for this analogy, add diehard fans of one team and diehard fans of the other. It changes the dynamic and the view of the game–and people’s perspectives–even more. Remember that we can agree to disagree and discuss topics rather than argue about them.
We might also agree that a little friendly football rivalry smack-talk never hurt anyone…GO COUGS!