Developing our Airmen... a far reaching goal

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Nowland
  • 71st Flying Training Wing commander
Over the past few weeks, I've shared my thoughts and goals for Team Vance during my second year of command. Mission execution, perfecting emergency management and establishing contract compliance as a core competency are focused on how we do what we do. 

The fourth goal, and the most far reaching, is to develop our Airmen. 

Any time I slip the shackles that tie me to the desk, there are two places I like to go - the nearest fueled aircraft, and any place our young Airmen are gathered. 

The fueled aircraft is easy to explain. It's my rule No. 4 -- be an expert at what you do. For me, this means leading, knowing the rules and the most fun, flying. Being an instructor pilot takes time and effort, but is also just plain fun because teaching lieutenants is rewarding and I'm blessed to have the opportunity. 

The gathering of young Airmen is also easy to explain. They are our future. They are our responsibility. And they are the measure by which we determine the quality of our leadership. 

If you want to know what a young person cares about, ask them. Universally, they want to have fun, they want to be challenged and they want the opportunity to succeed. As their leaders, we have a role to play in all three areas. 

We must give them the time to play, time to keep physically fit, time to relax and time to develop socially. We must also ensure they have the tools to make proper decisions when they play. Teach them to manage risk and make responsible choices. 

Pilot training provides an amazing level of challenge for our students. Maintaining the quality and intensity with an eye for each student's abilities is what separates Air Force training from all others. 

What we do with our students while they are awaiting pilot training is just as important as what we do when they begin. These young officers have skills and talents we cannot afford to let languish while they wait for stick time. Challenge them. Put them to work. Develop them as future Air Force leaders. 

But just because our mission is training pilots doesn't give us the leeway of forgetting the many other Airmen who look to us for development. Vance is blessed with great Airmen. They are too good, and we are too small a community not to put every resource available into giving them the right opportunities and the right recognition. 

I see the quality of nominees that monthly compete for Airman of the Month. Make sure your top Airmen are in the running. 

During the last two Airmen Leadership School classes at Altus AFB, Okla., Senior Airmen Nina Gardner and John Werth earned the John L. Levitow award, presented to the top graduate from the ALS. Both are assigned to the 71st Operations Support Squadron here. 

When they walked across the stage at the Altus base theater, Airman Gardner and Airman Werth represented more than their individual hard work. They represented Team Vance. 

Of special note - the week before ALS graduation, Airman Werth was one of 22 Vance Airmen selected for promotion to staff sergeant. When given the opportunity, good people can do great things. 

When the opportunity for training comes up, make sure your Airmen have a chance at it. Whether it is Airman Leadership School, the NCO and Senior NCO Academies, Squadron Officer School, or advanced specialty courses, if your people qualify, let's give them a chance. 

And make sure they are recognized when they perform well. The quarterly and annual awards were designed to acknowledge outstanding Team Vance members - from the youngest enlisted to the seasoned civilian. From this local recognition, we then want to step it up to Air Education and Training Command and the Air Force level. 

The objective is simple. We want to win more awards than our fair share. We have outstanding people and they are doing outstanding jobs. We need to make sure they get the recognition. 

For every AETC and Air Force level award, we have created a writing team to look over nomination packages and ensure they are the best possible. No unit or individual at Vance will miss out on recognition because we didn't take time to write it right. 

I want leaders at all levels to embrace the Wing goal of developing our Airmen. Taking the time to provide Airmen honest feedback, effective and fair performance reports and award packages that tell the total story is our goal. 

Our Airmen are our future. They have volunteered to serve our nation at a time of war and they deserve our best efforts to develop their full potential.