By Chief Master Sgt. Steve K. McDonald
Air Force Personnel Enlisted Force Development
I have to admit I became a big fan of the television series “Lost” when a friend gave me past episodes on DVD that I watched while I was deployed.
After returning home, I watched the show without fail each week. One of the most frustrating things about following the series was being totally engrossed and losing track of time only to be brought to reality when the screen went blank and the words “To Be Continued …” appeared. You didn’t want the story to end; it was a disappointment. Wouldn’t it be nice if the show could go on forever? But, as the adage says, “All good things must come to an end.”
But is this adage an absolute truth? Since I began working in force development, I have come to learn that there are two things that should never come to an end: your personal and professional development. The concept of force development is extremely important in the Air Force. Developing and caring for Airmen has been one of the service’s stated priorities for many years.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy has spent the past three years espousing a philosophy of deliberately developing Airmen, as reflected in many of the Air Force’s policies and processes.
Within the world of doctrine and policy, force development is centered on the Continuum of Learning — a career-long process of individual development which connects education and training opportunities to assignment and deployment experiences.
In simpler terms, the Continuum of Learning consists of education, training and experience. For enlisted Airmen, this starts in basic military training and continues through initial skills training and into the first duty assignment.
Over the next four or 20 or 30 years, those same Airmen will continue their education and training from the Air Force by way of numerous assignments and deployment experiences. They will encounter people along the way and learn things about the service and themselves. Much of this will be deliberate in order to develop them both personally and professionally for future leadership roles in the Air Force.
But if we only focused on the resources employed by the Air Force, even force development would “come to an end.” That is why it is just as important to take a personal role in your own development. As many of you are aware, the Air Force chief of staff releases an annual reading list. Upon release of this year’s list, Daniel Sitterly, the director of force development under the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, suggested that the Continuum of Learning should now consist of education, training, experience and reading. His point was valid.
I believe the point is that the Air Force does a good job investing in the development of individuals but we may not have done a very good job in getting people to invest in themselves.
There are many ways people can further their own development. Where the Air Force provides professional military education, individuals can pursue civilian educational opportunities. Where the Air Force provides upgrade skill training, individuals can read books and use computer-based training to enhance current skills or learn new skills. In addition to Air Force assignment and deployment experiences, Airmen can join professional organizations and take on leadership roles.
It goes without saying that the Air Force will continue to invest in the personal and professional development of its people. But with added emphasis and a commitment from individuals to invest in themselves, force development can reach new levels.
That’s the good thing about personal and professional development — they truly are designed “to be continued.”