The Art of being an NCO

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Malcolm Mayfield
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
As two fighters dance across the television screen, a 5-year old boy mimics the swift and precise actions, dedicating each second to admire the martial artists’ movements. The young Larry Tolliver Jr. soon began to learn the art himself.

Now as an adult, the technical sergeant uses his 23 years of training and experience to continually better himself and those around him.

“Martial arts teaches you discipline, self-control and humility, which instills a code of ethics into each warrior,” said Tolliver, 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron assistant first sergeant. “Martial arts kept me out of trouble and helped me maintain a straight and narrow path.”

During Tolliver’s youth, there were many challenges he had to overcome including ethnic roadblocks. These issues created a childhood full of strife and fights, he said.

“Though I faced challenges, it was the few people who inspired and believed in me that kept me focused,” Tolliver said. “I’m here today because a few people helped change my life. What you say to someone might have a huge impact on their future and their lives.”

Tolliver remembers his rough younger years and uses that experience to help Airmen fulfill their potential.

“He individually considers his Airmen’s situations no matter what it is,” said Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca McNelley, 90th Security Forces Squadron member. “He has had his own personal experiences which led him down the wrong path; but he was helped at that time in his life, and I think he just wants to pay it forward and make sure the Airmen he sees going down those paths like him don’t make those choices.”

Tolliver said he seeks to inspire Airmen into making the correct choices before going down the wrong path. He has worked with dozens of Airmen since his enlistment and always puts them first.

“Sergeant Tolliver helped me through a lot,” said Senior Airman Noah Adams, 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron flight security controller. “I was going through a tough time, and he pulled me out of it. The incredible dedication he puts forward for the people he works with is amazing.”

Adams said he was at a point in his career where he thought he was going to be getting out of the military, and Tolliver’s dedication to his Airmen, inspired a passion in Adams to carry out the same mentality with his future troops.

“I feel like I’m a much better Airman after his leadership and guidance helped turn me around,” Adams said. “He’s the epitome of what I think a non-commissioned officer should be, and he is exactly what I want to be when I become an NCO.”

Adams attributed his success in Airman Leadership School and receiving the John L. Levitow Award, the highest achievement for enlisted Airmen enrolled in U.S. Air Force professional military education, to the mentorship he received from Tolliver.

“He’s always trying to make the Airmen around him better, trying to improve them and motivate them to get the job done,” McNelley said. “Martial arts have taught him a lot of self-discipline and helped focus him on his goals. He’s had a huge influence in his squadron and throughout the security forces group because of that focus.”

The Karate black belt said he is always willing to teach someone who is motivated and focused, but passion is all someone truly needs to succeed in life.

“Everyone is looking for an outlet— something to do, be passionate and express themselves,” Tolliver said. “Whether you’re playing basketball, boxing or soccer, it’s an outlet. You’re doing something that you’re passionate about to express yourself— you’re dedicated. No matter what it is, it will transfer into other aspects of your life.”

The Karate Master slowly exhales, his arms and body move with the precision he witnessed in his youth. He looks at those he teach and realizes his dream has come full circle.