Tag Archives: career

Being a leader is about empowerment

by Capt. Joe Ahlers
97th Air Mobility Wing Office of the Staff Judge Advocate

When you look up a few quotes on leadership, common themes develop: leaders are visionary. Leaders show the way and guide those underneath them to success. Leaders take the helm, they steer the ship and they set the example. For lack of a better word, leaders…lead.

But just as, if not more, important to developing as a leader is learning to empower subordinates to take on leadership roles of their own. As impressive as one person’s credentials may be, they cannot alone be the stone on which a successful organization is built. Successful leaders know this and they cultivate strong leadership skills among their followers by harnessing a vital but difficult to master personal skill: deference. Deference means showing respect or yielding to an idea, person, or organization not of one’s own. Deference is not easy; leaders must make tough decisions and supporting a subordinate’s ideas or methods is difficult when the leader knows that they will bear the responsibility if things go wrong. Yet, a leader who defers to their subordinates when appropriate will have followers who are more invested in their work, produce better results, and are more dedicated to the greater success of the organization.

leadership

Take for example two supervisors, Jack and Susan. Jack dictates exactly what each person in an office project will work on and how they should carry out their tasks; he spends significant time re-working memorandums from his subordinates to conform to his style of writing and carefully scrutinizes the most minor decisions within his organization. Jack’s employees know they are merely at work to fulfill Jack’s task listing and do not make efforts to go above and beyond as doing so has little payoff in Jack’s eyes.

Susan, on the other hand, provides her employees a framework for office tasks but gives them latitude to explore and develop their own solutions. Susan ensures work product is accurate and sets general guidelines but believes it is important that a subordinate’s work carry its own voice and not simply her style or way of doing things. Susan ultimately makes the final decision but her employees see that she genuinely considers their viewpoints and trusts them as professionals. Susan’s subordinates are more confident and enthusiastic in their daily work and take pride in ensuring they take charge of their job functions regardless of their prominence.

Deference in leadership is easily applicable in the military. Even tasks guided by layers of regulation provide opportunities for leeway in how to accomplish daily tasks. Effective leaders nurture leadership at every level and encourage subordinates to become the expert and take responsibility for their work. If a written memorandum is wrong, fix it, but leave some room for the subordinate to use their own style; supervisors can ensure work is in the proper form and promote an employee’s confidence by deferring to their personal style. Provide subordinates a framework for how to accomplish a task and see what they come up with; you might be surprised to see a new way of doing things and you’ll drive the employee to work harder to impress.

In many ways, we are all leaders; we have raised our hands to guide the defense of the nation in whatever way we’re asked. But in daily life, leadership is much more than managing a task or directing a project; it’s about promoting a environment in which those who follow you do so not because they have to but because they desperately want to impress you and improve your organization. A true leader knows that empowering the skills and abilities of those who follow them means promoting the ideas of not just themselves, but all individuals who make up a successful team.

What kind of leader are you? What’s your leadership style?

PHOTO: Lt. Gen. Darren McDew, 18th Air Force commander, visits with Airmen from the 6th Medical Group at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., March 11, 2014. McDew toured multiple sections of the MacDill clinic. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tori Schultz)

Military Appreciation Month: Spotlight on an Airman Week 3

by 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Editor’s note: May is Military Appreciation Month, and we’ll highlight a different Airman and his or her job once per week for this month. We’re truly grateful for the hard work each Airman puts forth each day, and every job — big or small– contributes to the U.S. Air Force being the best Air Force in the world. Is there a military member you appreciate? Tell us in the comments below.

Tech. Sgt. Charmaine Reed is the flight service center noncommissioned officer in charge for the 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. She’s been in the Air Force for more than 13 years. Her hobbies include scrapbooking, nail art, making diaper cakes and cooking.

charmaine

How does she portray Service Before Self?
Reed is always willing to share knowledge with the Airmen. She continuously tries to improve processes and doesn’t mind working extra hours to complete the mission.

Why did you join the Air Force?
I’m from a large family, and staying in St. Louis wasn’t an option for me. I’ve always wanted to travel and experience different cultures. Most importantly, the Air Force has allowed me to be a part of what makes America great.

How does your job support the mission of the 48th Fighter Wing?
We support the mission by managing due-in maintenance accounts and ensuring repairable assets are expedited to the back shops or returned to the supply pipeline for other repair facilities.

What drives you as an Airman?
I’m driven by knowing that I’m protecting the freedom and way of life enjoyed by my fellow Americans.

What skills do you possess that set you apart from other Airmen in your shop?
I’m always willing to learn new skills, and I don’t mind putting in the extra-long hours to complete the mission.

What has been your favorite place to travel in England/Europe, or where would you like to travel to?
I love being immersed in other cultures and experiencing them firsthand. Each spot I get the pleasure to explore holds a uniqueness that I can’t compare to any other.

PHOTO: Tech. Sgt. Charmaine Reed (right) teaches Airman 1st Class Eric Licatovich about incoming packaging slip procedures at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, May 15, 2014. Reed, 48th Logistics Readiness Squadron flight service center NCO in charge, was nominated for a Liberty Spotlight because she displays the core value of Service Before Self. Licatovich is a 48th LRS flight service center apprentice. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dawn M. Weber/Released)

Lessons in compassion

By Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro
51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

“Without mercy, man is like a beast. Even if you are hard on yourself, be merciful to others.” – Quote from Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1954 film, Sansho the Bailiff

On Aug. 20, 2012, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. My bed, usually crowded with my wife, Cece, and two cats, Miki and Lulu, was empty. Down the hallway of the one-floor, three-bedroom house we rented in Cabot, Arkansas, I heard noise from the kitchen. When I went to see what the noise was, I found my 23-year-old wife on the floor and erratically painting on a canvas.

The painting was of an Airman Battle Uniform next to a bottle of prescribed depression medication. Streaks and spots of deep red paint blotched the canvas, which also had gashes and holes littered in it because Cece had been stabbing it with a kitchen knife.

“What the (obscenity) are you doing?” I asked.

She looked up at me, her body shaking, our two cats flanking her sides. I saw a hurt face and fear-riddled eyes, scorched red from sleep deprivation and sobbing. With our little family together in the kitchen that morning, “I’m sorry,” was all she could say.

Lessons in Compassion

Months earlier, Cece was sent to stay for a week at the Bridgeway, a mental health hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. Three weeks later, she went back for another week for what eventually became a diagnosis of severe anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

An Airman herself, recent military-related stress of deployments, family separation and being over worked, coupled with the loss of her uncle and past personal traumas, led to my wife’s sleeping problems. She lived in a constant state of fear. Unable to sleep at night, she’d only shake helplessly in the bed next to me. These mounting pressures for my wife led to a serious conflict in our relationship for the first time since we met in 2007. I was seeing a different landscape of what had always been a very happy woman.

Strife at work, a splintered relationship at home, being put on depression medication and sleeping pills, being taken from her home twice for treatment, being whispered about by co-workers, being unambiguously accused of faking her condition by her first sergeant and awaiting the upcoming staff sergeant promotion results sent Cece into a severe panic that morning.

After my wife apologized, I talked her into getting up. We picked up the canvas and painting supplies, but I kept thinking about the red streaks of paint all over the floor and that I’d have to clean it up later. I then made Cece lay in bed until it was time for her to get dressed for her 4 a.m. shift.

The rest of that day reverberates in my conscience. The memories echo in my mind like the lingering twang of a released guitar string.

I received a call from my wife’s co-worker at 6 a.m., telling me to get to their workplace immediately. I found Cece pale-faced, shaking and not wearing boots or belt. I remember taking her to mental health and being unable to sit in on the confidential session. Cece was discharged from mental health and sent back to work. Then, we found out she made staff sergeant, but we didn’t feel like celebrating like we did when I made it two years earlier. I remember a silent car ride home.

As soon as we got to the house, I tried to help Cece sleep, but I couldn’t quell her anxiety. We lay in bed, me holding her and telling her to go to sleep while she shook and whimpered in pain. I silently scorned her condition, constantly thinking about how much effort I had to make for her and how her problems were affecting my behavior. It was a sweet relief when Cece finally stopped shaking and slept. When I finally went to sleep that night, I was glad such an emotionally taxing day was over.

Afterward, things didn’t become easier for us. We kept having arguments, and I became increasingly agitated with my wife, who was still suffering, physically and emotionally. Our problems escalated until one night, after getting off a 4 a.m. – 1 p.m. shift, Cece hadn’t come home by 6:30 p.m., and we argued via text message. At one point I threatened to leave her and told her I couldn’t handle her condition anymore.

After she got home, Cece told me she was thinking about killing herself, and that she thought about intentionally crashing her car into a tree on one of Arkansas’ back roads. Talking to a person so heartlessly while they suffered still shames me. We once again lay on the bed, her unable to sleep or relax and me holding her. I remember vividly what she said to me, “I just need you to help me right now. You know I’ll help you when you need it.”

She was right. During our five years together there were times when I was, at best, difficult to get along with and at worst insufferable.

I’ve always had a confrontational and contentious nature. This makes it hard for me to connect with people, and in my early 20s I often felt lonely and alienated, which led to an unhappiness that I often projected onto other people. Yet, even in my worst moods, I remember my wife holding onto me, joking with me, making me smile or laugh. She may have never known, but her signature smile, a beaming, full teeth-baring grin, often elevated me from the depths of negativity. So when she pleaded with me so bluntly, I couldn’t feel anything but shame and compassion.

This proved a turning point for us, and after that night I tried to act with mercy or compassion toward her struggle. For all of us, life has summits and cellars. No one is exempt from adversity and at times we all need kindness. After that day, I was committed to being supportive before critical and being helpful before skeptical. Things started to improve for both of us.

That’s not to imply everything changed right away. Mental conditions don’t evaporate or disappear because of good intentions. It takes commitment and patience to persevere the brutalities of depression, anxiety and PTSD. My wife still has hard days and difficult moments like everyone else. Traumatic memories still haunt her, but our efforts to keep an open, honest, nonjudgmental and supportive dialogue about ourselves helps. Just a year later, I was confident enough in her recovery to volunteer for an unaccompanied tour to South Korea. Cece is now out of the Air Force and going to school full time, and we’re both happily pursuing our goals and supporting each other as much as we ever have.

So why should anyone care about this highly personal story? Because there are many people like my wife and many people like me. There are people suffering, scarred, afflicted, overburdened and unfairly judged — unsure if something is wrong with them or if they can even ask for help. There are also people in a position to help, but unsure of what to do.

For the last 65 years, May has been designated as Mental Health Awareness Month. For a lot of us these monthly observances, of which there are plenty, are easy to dismiss or blithely endorse. It usually takes a personal stake in the issue to really care about it. Not just my wife, but personal experiences with my family have left me an advocate for the accepting treatment of suffering people. That means not only encouraging those who need it to seek help, but also encouraging others to treat the suffering with patience and kindness, even if they can’t understand them.

I’ve seen the consequences when people don’t get support, and while there’s no catchall method to stop someone from hurting him or herself, treating all people with dignity and compassion is the right place to start. Sometimes we don’t understand the influence we cast on others, how a kind action or showing genuine concern can seriously alter somebody’s day for good and how meanness, cruelty or indifference can do the opposite. It’s possible that kindness is all it can take to convince somebody they can ask for help, or that they’re valuable enough to be cared about.

Cece tells me the hardest thing about asking for help is the inevitable stigma that comes with it. She used to be afraid to talk about her feelings and problems because it was embarrassing and perceived as weakness. Also, personal cases of depression are hard for others to understand.

Much effort has been made to promote the truth that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but this gives little comfort to people when they’re being ostracized at work or being treated different by friends and family. This is why all of us have a responsibility to value and care for the people around us. It’s important to treat those seeking help kindly, because despite progressive efforts, negative attitudes still exist.

However, I’m not writing this to ask you to change your mind about mental health. If you truly believe someone is faking a condition or if you think they’re too sensitive or weak for asking for help, chances are I’m not going to convince you otherwise.

Instead, compassion is my gospel. Treat those who are suffering, even if you’re skeptical, with mercy.

There’s no simple solution to the ailments of mental health. No acronyms, pills, PowerPoint slides, books, slogans or training can cure anxiety, depression or PTSD. There is, however, a universally good starting point, which is being respectful and compassionate to everyone, but especially to those who share their struggles and seek help.

If we do this, the worst thing we can do is be excessively nice. The best we can do may be to bring someone back from the abyss. Kindness, mercy and compassion are traits I value in people above all else. Her abundance of these is one of the reasons I fell in love with Cece when we were dating in 2008, and her enduring and helpful nature has inspired me and helped me be a better person ever since.

Celebrated poet John Donne poignantly wrote: “Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”

As human beings, Americans, service members and Airmen, we should not take the suffering of our own lightly or callously, but as a detriment to our family. Every single loss diminishes the whole, and every single person in the world is important.

In our living room, centered above our couch, we proudly display the painting Cece attacked with a knife. Its presence reminds me that we all have flaws and need support in our weakest moments. As individual human beings, the mistakes we make and scars we give and take can’t be undone any more than knife punctures can be erased from a canvas. We can never take back what we say and do. The wounds we endure never completely heal. However, as someone’s fellow human being, we have the chance to help by supporting each other. The most important thing in life isn’t what you did or what you’ll do, but what you’re willing to do now. There’s no nobler impulse in mankind than mercy, and there’s an abundance of people in the world who need it. Help them.

PHOTO: Staff Sgt. Jake Barreiro and Cece Guadalupe Ortiz days before their wedding Jan. 3, 2011, in Dover, Del. They first met in December 2007, began dating June 1, 2008, and got married Jan. 8, 2011. (Courtesy photo by Cynthia Ticas)

May 8 recruitment tweet chat

By the Air Force Public Affairs Agency

The Air Force Recruiting Service participated in its ninth “office hours” tweet chat, #AsktheAF on @usairforce, May 8 and received 32 recruitment questions from Twitter followers. During the hour-long Web event, AFRS officials and the Air Force Social Media Team answered questions about enlistment eligibility requirements, Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test scores and other career field-specific questions. In case you missed it, here are all the questions and answers from the chat.

AF recruiting

Q1: Can I get a tattoo sleeve while in the Air Force?
A1: The tattoo policy applies to getting in and while you’re in. Check out http://bit.ly/111YFdA for more info.

Q2: How closely will the USAF and RCAF be able to work in the future, with both countries flying F-35s?
A2: Unfortunately, we cannot predict future joint missions.

Q3: What’s going to happen to the A-10s?
A3: You’ll have to stay posted for more information.

Q4: What are the current honor grad requirements for BMT?
A4: You’ll need to score a 90% or higher on all testable items & be in the top 10% of all graduates.

Q5: What are the current thunderbolt PT requirements?
A5: Males-1.5 mi in 9:30 >; 55 push-ups, 60 sit-ups; 5 pull-ups. Females – 1.5 mi in 12:00>; 32 push-ups; 55 sit-ups, 2 pull-ups.

Q6: What is the average timeframe for someone in the DEP to go to basic training?
A6: There’s a 3-9 month wait time after you process until you go to BMT.

Q7: Is there any way to get a degree while going active duty?
A7: Yes, after completing BMT, tech school and upgrade training, you can take college classes.

Q8. Does the Air Force still use the MAVNI program? If so, what are languages open?
A8: MAVNI is open for French (from African countries). Talk to a recruiter for more info.

Q9: I am green card holder and 30 years old can I enlist the Air Force?
A9: You exceed the age limit, and we do not give age waivers.

Q10: What kind of nursing options are there in the Air Force?
A10: You must have a BSN to be considered, and then you’ll be placed into a specific field based on current needs.

Q11: How many students can go directly into pre-med after they graduate from the Academy?
A11: Contact Academy officials for your answer: http://bit.ly/1obC6iC

Q12: Do we need a certain ASVAB score to be selected for PJ training?
A12: For PJ training, you will need to score AFQT: 50, Gen: 44.

Q13: What are some combat related jobs I can get into after ROTC besides security forces?
A13: You can be a combat rescue officer or special tactics officer. Learn more here: http://1.usa.gov/15E3PMP

Q14: What are the qualifications to become a USAF security forces officer?
A14: Along with being selected, you need a BA, 3.0 GPA, be a U.S. citizen, & more, but OTS boards are currently suspended.

Q15: Are you allowed to make phone calls at BMT?
A15: Phone calls can be made upon arrival, at week 4 and week 7. Other than that, it’s up to your TI.

Q16: I’m from Ghana and want to know how I can apply to enter the Air Force.
A16: You must live in the U.S. for two years, have a valid visa and meet all other requirements.

Q17: What year will the F-35 enter full production?
A17: The F-35 has already been produced as a joint aircraft.

Q18. What is the TACP PAST test? Standard and SOF if possible.
A18: Please refer to the following link: http://1.usa.gov/15E3PMP

Q19: How many times do you have to pass the PAST test before going to basic and your tech school?
A19: Your recruiter will brief you on their standards.

Q20: Is a high school diploma necessary to join the Air Force or will a GED suffice?
A20: If you got your GED through an in-class program, you can enter. If you tested for it you must also have 15 college credits.

Q21: Is there any chance that the A-10 fleet will remain in active service?
A21: The A-10 remains a viable weapon system. No firm determination has been made on the future of this aircraft.

Q22: What type of jobs will crypto linguists be doing in the Air Force?
A22: You will be proficient in transcribing, recording, and analyzing voice communication signals/transcripts

Q23: Can siblings enlist at the same time?
A23: Provided both siblings are qualified, they may enlist at the same time.

Q24: I am a legal resident and 30 years old, I took the ASVAB and had a 77 on the AFQT. Can I enlist in the Air Force?
A24: Non-prior service applicants must be at least 17 to apply and in Basic Military Training before their 28th birthday.

Q25: Is the Air Force prior service program open to all military branches?
A25: Yes, it’s open to all military branches when it is active provided you’re otherwise qualified. At this time, Prior Service program is suspended with exception of pararescue.

Q26: With the rise of FBW, CPUs and unmanned crafts, how does USAF ensure stick-and-rudder skills are still being learned?
A26: Basic flying skills are taught, and based upon the type of aircraft you will rate, will depend upon the system(s) you will learn.

Q27: Is tactical aircraft maintenance a good job?
A27: If you have displayed the aptitude, it is an extremely good job.

Q28: Are microdermal piercings allowed in the Air Force if they are not visible with clothes on?
A28: Check out the FAQ about tattoos and piercings here: http://bit.ly/15KYpPs.

Q29: What are the requirements of ARC Airmen while on MPA orders to their ARC unit?
A29: This chat is for active duty AF. You will need to contact your Reserve unit for that info.

Q30: Can community college grads w/associates degrees become a commissioned officer?
A30: Must have Bachelors from an accredited university and qualifying GPA to apply for OTS.

Military Appreciation Month: Spotlight on an Airman Week 2

by 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Editor’s note: May is Military Appreciation Month, and we’ll highlight a different Airman and his or her job once per week for this month. We’re truly grateful for the hard work each Airman puts forth each day, and every job — big or small– contributes to the U.S. Air Force being the best Air Force in the world. Is there a military member you appreciate? Tell us in the comments below.

Senior Airman Christoper Andersen is the 14th Fighter Squadron aviation resource manager from Brandon, South Dakota.

140423-F-QI259-075

What’s your daily mission?
Each day, I check over each F-16 pilot’s records to ensure they are fully trained and qualified before “stepping” them to fly. From there, I function as a liaison for the pilots to several shops on base, including maintenance, base ops, tower, command post and other agencies as required, relaying the most up-to-date information and coordination as the mission requires. At the end of the day, we track the pilots’ training and flying hours to update our systems.

What do you enjoy about your job?
My favorite part is being able to talk to the pilots on a daily basis and being so close to the actual mission of the 35th Fighter Wing — the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses. The knowledge I gain enables me to see the broad operational picture as well as key insights into other career fields and how we all contribute to the mission.

Why did you choose to serve in the military?
Initially, it was about the unique career and travel opportunities the Air Force offers that you simply do not see in the civilian world. I was also drawn by the sense of duty and contributing to a purpose greater other than myself, combined with the ability to be able to reach my education goals while developing myself in the military. All the pieces just made sense to join. There is really no better opportunity.

What is your favorite thing about being in Japan?
Japanese culture itself — from the cuisine to entertainment, to their professionalism and courtesy. I will certainly miss Japan!

Who is your favorite mentor and what did you learn from him/her?
Senior Master Sgt. McCracken. He was the chief host aviation resource manager at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, during my time there and exemplified all the traits of a great leader. I strive to be a positive influence like he was to me and to carry those traits forward.

Supervisor’s remarks:
Andersen sets the example for all to follow and is always ready to take any challenges head on. He took the initiative to seamlessly integrate non-deployed 13th Fighter Squadron personnel into 14th Fighter Squadron operations, easing the transition for all supporting agencies to have a central point of contact. As staff sergeant-select, he has shown that he is more than ready to wear the stripe and take on the duties he will be charged with. I could not ask for a more hard-charging Airman to work with and rely on.” – Tech. Sgt. Brandon Piper, 14th Fighter Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Aviation Resource Management