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Developing professional Airmen

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Marty Anderson
  • 90th Missile Wing command chief
Last week, I attended the Senior Enlisted Leadership Summit Conference in Montgomery, Ala. We were discussing developing our Airmen. With unique mission challenges as well as a changing world, our Airmen have to be even more prepared to meet military demands. It started me thinking about what is expected of our supervisors in order to develop a new Airman into a true professional, ready to meet those future demands. Three things immediately came to mind: educating, equipping and training each Airman to be a professional in the United States Air Force.

Supervisors are expected to develop Airmen from a follower role into a leader! The process of developing a professional Airman starts with the supervisor educating each Airman on what is expected. This is accomplished during formal or informal performance feedbacks. Supervisors must cover everything from standards, conduct, performance, making smart decisions and the Air Force as a way of life. Supervisors must also educate each Airman on who we are, what we do, and what we represent. Supervisors must take the time to explain the why's and how's for each standard as well as the consequences for not meeting those standards.

The second step requires equipping each Airman with the required skills to be successful. A professional Airman must be confident, self-reliant, intuitive, demonstrate initiative and a positive attitude while being a team player. These are just a few of the traits we expect of our Airmen. This is where training plays a critical role in developing a professional Airman!

Basic training and technical training ensures each Airman has the foundation for being a professional. Supervisors must push each Airman outside his comfort zone in order to grow and learn. As Airmen deal with situations successfully, they develop more confidence and trust in their judgment to effectively handle any situation that arises. Supervisors must continually find unique situations that challenge and test an Airman's abilities and characteristics. This sometimes finds the supervisor in a situation where he is outside his comfort zone; this is a growth opportunity for the supervisor and Airman.

Developing the skill to deal with the unknown is the mark of a true leader!

It takes more than just wearing a uniform into work and accomplishing a specific task to be a professional Airman in today's Air Force. Professional Airmen have a sense of belonging and see how they directly contribute to the wing's and Air Force's mission. A professional Airman understands how his actions or inactions can jeopardize the credibility and success of the mission. But, it does not happen by itself. A supervisor must have a vision and develop a plan to develop a professional Airman. This concept applies to Airmen, NCOs, senior NCOs and officers at every level. Being a true professional requires each of us to have a never-ending quest for knowledge and experience.