Chief shares passion for guiding women to the top

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Michelle Kerstetter
  • 193rd Special Operations Comptroller Flight
(The following interview with Chief Master Sgt. Michelle Kerstetter is the third 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:  Could you describe your job at the 193rd Special Operations Wing?
A: As the financial management superintendent, I ensure that all members at the wing get paid their travel, military and civilian pay in a timely manner. I also manage and make sure that each vender contract is paid timely; discounts are taken when offered; and we avoid accruing interests on any delinquent accounts. Customer service is obviously one of our biggest priorities. I like to make sure all customers receive great customer service either by email, call backs or in person.

Q: How has your promotion to chief added to your responsibilities?
A: As chief, I was nominated to be an enlisted council representative. Also, as part of the chief's council, we volunteer to help at different events, such as the Hershey Free Church, and we raise money for events like "The Order of the Sword." Personally, I hope to continue to keep all units at the wing involved with one another. I do this by helping to offer classes and training sessions not only at the 193rd but wherever our Airmen need them. And by making a physical presence at our different air stations, I can get to know each of our members personally.

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: When I was stationed in Kentucky, my hiring supervisor and trainer gave me some good advice that has stuck with me throughout the years. She taught me that you need to learn how to do things on your own and not just rely on others to always give you the answers. I learned to physically look up my questions in the regulations and then only ask when I had questions on the interpretation of how to follow them. This is what I hope to instill in our Airmen because people may have a different interpretation of a regulation. Even though it may be a little bit more work, looking them up for yourself will benefit everyone in the end.

Q: What does attaining the rank of chief master sergeant mean to you personally?
A: Growing up in a not-so-privileged home, I learned early on from my mother to work hard for what you want and then you can get it. Words can't even describe how amazing it feels to be a woman in my position. Some days it still almost doesn't seem real! And because of that it has always been a goal of mine to help other women in the military because we are in the minority. We need to stand out and work hard for what we want to achieve.

Q: What does it take to make it to the rank of chief master sergeant? What do you think has helped you become a chief?
A: To me, making it to chief master sergeant comes from hard work and dedication. I got this sense of hard work from seeing it in my mom growing up. If you work hard for what you want, anything is achievable.

Q: What are some personal and professional goals you'd still like to achieve?
A: Some of my goals include getting my master's degree and continuing to attend more leadership courses.

Q: What words of wisdom would you offer Airmen and non-commissioned officers looking to advance their careers?
A: The biggest piece of advice I want to offer is the concept of service before self. Some of our young Airmen have the "it's all about me" attitude, but it would greatly benefit them to learn how to put their jobs first sometimes above themselves. It's what you can do for your job and then, after that, it's what your job can do for you. My advice to those wishing to advance their careers is to work hard, be open to learn, volunteer, and show initiative to take that extra step.