Leading today's Airmen

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Wow!  It has already been one year since I started working as the superintendent for the air mobility advisory group.  The experience has been humbling and enlightening at the same time. 

A wise man once told me, “this is a great time to be a leader in our military.”  At first I thought he was senile, but as I got out from behind my desk and talked to Airmen around Travis and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst while they were attending Airman Leadership School, Leading Edge Seminars, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Enhancement Course and Senior NCOPE Seminar, I quickly understood just how right he was. 

There is no doubt that we as an Air Force are going through some growing pains with the implementation of the new enlisted evaluation system, the new Distance Learning Enlisted Professional Military Education and the transition to the Blended Retirement System just to name a few.  You see, we had a monumental paradigm shift within the last year because we ventured into the unknown of the new Enlisted Performance Report format and then we had to go through our first Force Distribution Panels where commanders got the opportunity to determine who the top performers were within their squadrons. 

This presented our first opportunity to lead.  Our commanders required sage advice from leadership within the unit to determine who was most deserving of a “Promote Now” or “Must Promote” recommendation.  The next opportunity to lead came with helping those who received a “Promote” recommendation. 

Again, we had to dispel the myth that receiving a promotion recommendation in the “middle” was not a “3 EPR” nor was it a blow to an Airman’s career.  This was a tough leadership task because it was the first time Weighted Airman Promotion System was calculated in this manner and we had to maintain faith in a system that we only knew would work in theory.  Granted, we are not Theoretical Physicists like Dr. Sheldon Lee Cooper, but we had an idea that everything would work itself out in the end. 

Guess what?  It worked out in the end.  The results of the 16E6 promotion cycle revealed nearly 42 percent of all those selected received a “Promote” recommendation.  This is just one example in the myriad of topics we have to lead the next generation of Airmen.  The expectations are high for each and every supervisor because we are laying the foundation for the future of our Air Force. 

Remember, the Airmen coming into the service now have no idea about the old inflated EPR system or how WAPS was calculated in the good old days.  Pretty soon, these young men and women will know an entirely different retirement system and it is our responsibility to help educate them on the things that are critical to their lives and requires our utmost attention.

The road down the leadership path will not be easy.  It may require long days and nights making sure EPRs are accurately written or doing morale checks in work centers that operate on a 24/7 schedule.  No matter the situation, our leadership is needed to convey our understanding of applicable Air Force Instructions and how we fit into the big picture of mission success.

In addition, we must explain commander’s intent to a level where everyone understands what is expected on a daily basis.  So please, lead from the front and take advantage of every opportunity to guide the careers of the future ALS Commandants, Technical School Instructors, Military Training Instructors, First Sergeants, Chief Master Sergeants and quite possibly the next Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force.  When it comes to leading our Airmen, we will never falter and we will not fail.