Leading by example: The road to chief master sergeant

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Sue Thario
  • 112th Air Operations Squadron
(The following interview with Chief Master Sgt. Sue Thario is the second in a series that explores the responsibilities, challenges and opportunities associated with attaining the rank of chief master sergeant. The first article appeared in the February 2013 edition of Scope.)

Q: How would you describe your job at the wing?
A: I've been a traditional guardsman with the 193rd Special Operations Wing for more than 15 years. I recently accepted a position as chief enlisted manager for the 112th Air Operations Squadron and now have the opportunity to work directly for the commander in areas involving personnel and management. I am the squadron focal point for the self-inspection program, which ensures the unit is at its best readiness posture. In my primary-duty Air Force Specialty Code, I am a command and control specialist working in the Air Operations Center (in both the plans and operations divisions), producing daily air tasking orders. I'm also an offensive/defensive duty technician. Before cross-training into that career field many years ago, I was an aircraft avionics technician on fighter aircraft, specifically the A-7D, F-4D and F-16.

Q: Now that you've earned the rank of chief master sergeant, how has your role changed?
A: In my prior roll, I was purely operations-centric. After I was promoted to chief, I became dedicated to the entire squadron and its well-being. I feel the need to make sure everyone knows they can and should depend on me to do what is best for them and our unit as a whole.

Q: During your long career, you've sat under the leadership of many people. What piece(s) of advice have you received over the years that have made the greatest impact on you?
A: I have learned I must ensure that the Airmen I'm responsible for are receiving the best training and motivation as I can give them to succeed and advance. Only then can I say I've made that "difference."

Q: What does attaining the rank of chief master sergeant mean to you personally?
A: Achieving this honor is still a little surreal to me. It attests to the fact that the efforts, loyalties and sacrifices have paid off and have proven to be of value to the 112th and the 193rd. I have followed the rules and regulations; trained to the greatest level in all my career fields; ensured the Airmen under me have been ready to serve in their positions any time they were called; made the appropriate decisions; and earned the respect of my supervisors and leadership. Even some errors in judgment I have made became opportunities to learn and excel, and allowed me to become a better person in both military and personal aspects.

Q: What does it take to make it to the rank of chief master sergeant?
A: My supervisors and leadership most definitely have played a large role. They saw in me a potential to play a bigger part, to help ensure the 112th attains and continues the high standards for which it is known. As far as personal merits, I think my loyalty, tenacity, leadership, followership, can-do attitude and commitment to go that one step farther has all attributed to the success I share.

Q: What are some personal and professional goals you would still like to achieve?
A: In my personal life, I would like to start and run my own business. I hope to open a bed and breakfast where I live in Montana. I assume that, after I retire from the greatest military force on earth, I will have the time to put toward more education, primarily in business management, to assist in achieving that goal. Also, I would like to know that I have made a difference in people's lives.

Q: What words of wisdom would you offer Airmen and non-commissioned officers looking to advance their careers?
A: To use a "Wizard of Oz" analogy, I like to think of us all as a group of friends trekking down a "yellow brick road" of sorts. At the end of that road is success. Along the way, like the scarecrow, we seek knowledge and wisdom to make the right moves. Like the tin man, we learn what it means to have compassion and empathy for others; to share in their pain and their joy and to treat others as we want to be treated. Like the lion, we draw on our courage to face difficult circumstances and people; and we pray for the strength to make those tough, yet important decisions. And, finally, like Dorothy, we cling to the comforts of our home, our roots. We use them as a reminder of where we came from and to help us mentor those who haven't travelled as far yet on the road as we have.
As a leader and mentor, it's important to nurture the people who report to you. They are the leaders of the future. Hear them. Listen with open ears and try to incorporate their suggestions so they know their input counts. Be a good example. Be a part of their training, both in technical and inspirational ways. Tell them how important they are to the quality of our military might. Keep them in the loop; good communication is key.