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Growing leaders for tomorrow’s Air Force

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Matt Schwartz
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
One challenge military leaders continuously face is mentoring and training junior troops to become leaders of the future. To help provide more professional development for this important endeavor, the 193rd Special Operations Wing recently held a three-day, non-commissioned officer leadership development program at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

Already in place when the U.S. Air Force’s Enlisted Force Action Order was published earlier this year, a team comprised of senior NCOs around the wing used this guidance to further shape and enhance their program and give more robust training to Airmen.

“What will set us apart from our competitors is building the strongest NCO and senior NCO core,” said Chief Master Sgt. Shaun Hege, 193rd SOW interim command chief. “Senior NCOs and NCOs are going to lead missions way differently in the future. We believe in this professional development because we are aligned with the Air Force, and this is going to be our competitive advantage.”

With the help of individuals from the Army War College in Carlisle, the first day of the program led Airmen through a tour of the Battle of Gettysburg to learn about decisions that shaped the future of the country. The orders that were followed, ignored or changed fashioned what would become one of the bloodiest battles in American history. 
“One of the first lines in the Enlisted Force Action Order under Force Development Ecosystem is to learn outside the traditional classroom,” said Hege. “It’s a little bit of a history lesson tied in with leadership and, most importantly, we want to make it exciting. You cannot replicate this on a PowerPoint presentation.”

The leadership development team is always looking for ways to make this program better. In two years, they’ve held four iterations of the program and each one has been unique.

“We as a team rely heavily on the comments in our after-course surveys,” said the senior enlisted leader of the 553rd Air National Guard Band of the Northeast, Senior Master Sgt. Noelani Pao. “Airmen tell us what worked, what didn’t work and what they would like to see in future iterations of the program.”

During the second day of the program, vice wing commander Col. Eric McKissick visited with participants to offer his personal insights on NCO leadership. As McKissick sees it, this program does more than create better wing leaders. Our Airmen improve the capabilities in their local communities and civilian companies as they take their lessons and skills from here home with them, he pointed out.

“One Airman found himself as a tech specialist where he ran a team, but he said his employer offered little education or training on how to run a team,” said McKissick. “So he fell back on his military training. He explained to us his lessons learned from that experience, which reinforces our support for these leadership development programs.”

McKissick said while professional military education is important, having a program like this is vital because it offers more individualized training, taking into account how a guardsman operates day in day out.

“The NCOs in the class are engaged and excited,” said McKissick. “Sure they’re learning techniques, but they’re also learning intrinsically what it means to be an NCO.”