Tag Archives: mentor

Layers of leadership

By Col. David Chiesa
71st Medical Group

Remember the movie “Captain America,” when the main character tried to join the Army under different names and in different cities, but he was always denied because of his size and perceived notions about his abilities? This comic book hero eventually overcame his lack of physical attributes, and defeated the greatest threat of World War II — Hydra.

Our chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, published Air Force Instruction 1-2, Commander’s Responsibilities, May 8. The information contained within it can be described as “back to the basics of leadership.” I see these basics embodied with Captain America, a man with many layers. Let’s peel back his layers of leadership and explore how we can improve ourselves by following his example and our own AFI.

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It is not just about you anymore

By Senior Master Sgt. Shae Alamo
U.S. Air Forces Central Command Public Affairs
I could break out any Air Force Instruction, The Enlisted Force Structure, Air Force Doctrine Document 1-1, or even “The Little Blue Book” of the Air Force Core Values, all of which will tell you how to be the Airman you are supposed to be. All noncommissioned officer’s should know these to make themselves better Airmen and to ensure all Airmen whose paths they cross are moving in the right direction.

I have had people ask me before, “Have you filled all the boxes to become a master sergeant, senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant?” Many have asked me what boxes they need to check to make it to these ranks. The boxes I am referring to are such things as completing your Community College of the Air Force degree, course 14, fitness standards and participation in professional organizations. While these must be met as you prepare to make the next rank, this is not all that needs to be done.

As an Airman, I was working on what I needed to do to be successful. I was not worried about anyone but myself. Once I transitioned into an NCO, I gained Airmen under my watch. I was no longer responsible for just myself, but for others who were following down the same path. This was a learning experience for me, because I was transitioning from an all-about me mentality to an all-about me and the Airmen in my work center mentality.

I was only worried about my Airmen staying out of trouble, fulfilling their requirements and looking better than everyone else in the accolades department. All the while unbeknownst to me, I was slowly transitioning and evolving as an Airman myself through many mentors, leaders, peers and Airmen that crossed my path. That is when the epiphany hit; it is not just about you anymore.

As I began transforming into a senior NCO, I began reflecting on the good and bad leaders along my career path and what they did that really made an impression on me. I literally created a journal of all these notes, writing down the characteristics that I wanted to have to make me a better Airman. But I also wrote down those characteristics I did not want to inherit. Airmen will quickly tell you of their not-so- good leaders and why they were not so good to them. It too was easy for me to bring these negative traits to light far more quickly than those of the good leaders.

My way of thinking began to change from negativity breeds negativity to positivity breeds positivity. I wanted to be that positive role model that Airmen were going to emulate as well as being their mentor; teaching them how to be great Airmen and leaders who others will follow.
It does not matter whether you are in a one-deep shop over a flight, over an entire squadron or higher; you should always take the time to learn what the agenda and expectations of your leader’s leader are. This will guide you in understanding, not only what it takes to ensure the success of your organization and your leader, but also the ability to explain to your Airmen their role they play in the bigger scheme of things.
Each Airman is vital in ensuring the Air Force mission does not fail. They are dependent upon those leading them to be capable of explaining the importance of their role in the Air Force. No matter what level of responsibility you are at, you affect every single Airman that you come into contact with — not just those you supervise.

Everyone has heard the phrase, “first impressions are lasting impressions.” This is so true as an NCO. Airmen will know if you are in it for yourself and if you are just “filling the blocks” towards promotion. Once again, it is not just about you anymore! Your simplest acts that you do will be noticed. Such things as picking up trash that is in your path, starting a care package program for those deployed, taking the time to ask about families, saying happy birthday or saying hello to everyone you walk by shows you care enough to put forth the effort to make everyone realize their importance.

Be the leader that does not just sit behind a desk, hides behind emails or only checks the blocks for the next rank. There is no way of checking a box when it comes to taking care of Airmen! Be active, be involved and be the individual that leads by example for all Airmen to follow, mentoring them down the right path as they will eventually replace you as the next generation of leaders of our Air Force!

When you take care of the Airmen, you are taking care of the Air Force. It is not just about you anymore.

My biggest mistake as an NCO

111201-F-BD983-001Chief Master Sgt. David Duncan
319th Air Base Wing command chief master sergeant

What was the most important leadership lesson you learned during your career? This question has been asked of me quite a few times as I get the awesome opportunity to speak with our Airmen around base. I have been asked this question from such groups as the First Term Airman Center, Airman Leadership School and the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Induction class this past July. I think they are expecting me to come up with some incredible quote or leadership principle from one of a hundred authors we have the chance to read during our times in professional military education. When answering this question, I usually set people back a little by telling the story of what I think was my biggest mistake as a young NCO.

Back in 1990, when I was a brand new staff sergeant, I thought the world revolved around me. Up to that point, I had been named the Squadron Airman of the Year, was promoted to senior airman below-the-zone and had made staff sergeant in the second cycle of my first year eligible. Anyone with such an impressive résumé was all that and a box of chocolates. I fell into the trap of believing my own press.

One day, a young airman 1st class who worked on my engine crew came to work with a very strong body odor. Everyone on my crew was complaining to me about this situation.

Being the straight forward person I am, I sat him down and discussed this issue with him. My intent was to straighten this Airman out and make things right. It turned out the neighborhood he, his wife and four-month old daughter were living in was being torn down to allow for the construction of a new highway overpass just outside of the base. Their house was actually the last one occupied in this particular area. As a result, they had no electricity and no water. He had a house to move into in base housing but wasn’t able to get the key for another two weeks. He and his wife came from very poor families deep in the woods of Louisiana, and they were quite content to “camp” for a few weeks until they could move to their new house.

I quickly realized just how bad I was at this whole leadership thing. Not only was I unaware of where my Airman even lived, I was unaware of this entire situation until this very discussion. In short, I failed my Airman and his family in a very big way. To make matters even worse, I was still selfishly only interested in taking care of his body odor condition, mainly because I couldn’t see the bigger picture that was put before me. I am embarrassed to admit all I could come up with was that he and his family begin using the fitness center for taking showers. There, problem solved.

When I let my supervisor, Tech. Sgt. Miller, know of my “brilliant” solution to this problem, he said something that sticks with me to this very day.

He said, “Staff Sgt. Duncan, that is the most stupid thing I ever heard come out of our mouth, and you did not earn your pay today.”

Then he quickly proceeded to ask me some very basic questions concerning their ability to do laundry, wash dishes, provide healthy food, and even baby formula for their new daughter. I remember we had a very long and informative discussion about helping agencies and how it was my job as an NCO to know them and know how to use them. He was very disappointed in my performance that day. Long story short, Tech. Sgt. Miller, my Airman and I walked out of the housing office less than one hour later with a set of keys to his new house and the rest of my crew and I moved his family into their new house by the end of the day.

So the most important leadership lesson I ever learned in my career is very simple. Being an NCO or leader is not about you. Rather, it is about everyone around you. Surely, it is about the Airmen and their families who the Air Force trusts you to care for. It is not about having the right answer all the time, but it is about being smart enough and humble enough to admit that you don’t know the right answer and you might be in over your head. It is about having situational awareness and knowing you have resources and helping agencies all around you which are available to assist you in taking care of your people.

To be an effective leader one must know his or her people. A leader knows not just where they live, but under what conditions they (and their families) are living. Leaders not concerned with building their résumé. They are concerned with developing their subordinates to become the best Airmen our Air Force deserves. Where are your Airmen in terms of Career Development Courses, their Community College of the Air Force degree and physical fitness? How is your Airman’s family doing? What is his or her spouse’s name? What about children’s names? What school does your Airman, his or her spouse and their children attend? How are his or her parents doing? What about his or her brother who has been sick lately? How is he doing?

The word sergeant means servant. NCOs are expected to serve the sons, daughters, nieces and nephews of our country. Those very moms, dads, aunts and uncles send their most precious gifts to us and expect us to be good stewards of these gifts. Be the good sergeant they expect you to be.

In the end, this Airman thanked me for taking care of his family and for the lesson I taught him about taking care of people. Tech. Sgt. Miller is the one who deserved all the credit for the final outcome of this situation. Truth be known, I should have been thanking both my Airman and my supervisor for the lesson they taught me that day — a lesson, which has stuck with me for the rest of my career.

PHOTO: Chief Master Sgt. Anthony Pearson, 334th Training Squadron, provides mentoring tips to Senior Amn. Kayla Spiel, 81st Medical Operations Squadron, during a speed mentoring program at the Bay Breeze Event Center, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., Nov. 30, 2011. The program was organized by the Keesler Career Assistance advisor, Senior Master Sgt. Steven Mullens, to provide mentorship to Airman Leadership School students from various senior NCOs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)