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Developing Professional Airmen and Leaders
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Mya Crosby
May 17, 2019

Moving up in the ranks in the Air Force requires lots of testing, training, problem solving and so much more. What’s also important is the how of growing into a strong leader.

A program found on nearly every Air Force installation is the Professional Development Team. This alliance is designed to have current leaders of the Air Force ranging from all specialties and backgrounds to support and guide Airmen from the ranks of Airman Basic to Senior Airman.

Professional Development Team members Senior Airman Kyle Thompson, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron force protection escort, and Senior Master Sgt. Troy Sahai, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing command post superintendent, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates on February 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)
Professional Development Team members Senior Airman Kyle Thompson, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron force protection escort, and Senior Master Sgt. Troy Sahai, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing command post superintendent, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates on February 14, 2019. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby)

“Overall, when you think about professional development, junior officers are surrounded by Senior NCOs to be groomed as effective leaders,” said Tech. Sgt. Alan Snowden, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron community services flight chief. “We can mirror a similar approach at the NCO level to groom our Airmen to fulfill leadership roles. When NCOs continuously develop Airmen, it maximizes return on investment long term for the Air Force.”

When it comes to developing the Airmen, this group of NCOs take action and use this opportunity to better both the young Airmen and themselves.

“This team has afforded me an outlet to do just that,” said Staff Sgt. Roberto Rodriguez, 380th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron NCO in charge of fitness center operations. “As we progress in rank, the supervisory net only gets larger. I want to be ready when my turn comes to sit in the seat, so I can make sure that I don't fail my Airmen and soon-to-be junior NCO subordinates.”

“I believe the purpose is in the name – ‘Professional Development’,” Rodriguez said. “We are charged with providing resources and opportunities for Airmen across the board to benefit from in that capacity by way of open forum lectures, instruction, or pushing out pertinent literature that has the potential to be valuable to up and coming leaders.”

As the program is spilt into mentors for the first four Air Force ranks and mentors for the two NCO ranks, the leaders take advantage of the program by using tools that weren’t available to them as young Airmen.

“I pursued the opportunity to be one of the First Four Mentors because I thoroughly enjoy talking with Airmen and giving them information and help that I didn't necessarily have or know when I was an Airman,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Lane, 380th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron force protection escort and NCO in charge of construction. “I think it's easy when you're an Airman to only think about the first order effects your decisions might have on your career, but as you grow in the ranks, you learn to start thinking about second and third order effects that your decisions can have. By being a First Four Mentor, I'm in a position to educate and motivate Airmen to begin adapting to that principle and hopefully begin thinking and engaging in questioning that helps them become more adaptive to future roles.”

Whether it’s through lectures or problem-solving, the NCOs use the skills they’ve gained to enlighten their subordinates.

“A good Chief once told me, ‘You don't know, what you don't know,’” Lane said. “That quote is what resonates with me about my outlook on the purpose of professional development. Exposing yourself to various professional development opportunities like bullet writing, decoration writing, progressive discipline, etc., because you are not going to be able to effectively react or lead in those unknown situations unless you experience them.”

The mentors understand the feeling of trying to grasp the understanding of being a leader and use that to their advantage to sustain the future of the Air Force.

“As an Air Force, we are only getting younger, and tomorrow's new face will soon become someone's supervisor and everything that comes with it,” Rodriguez said. “We have to make sure we don't cheat that future supervisor nor their subordinate by hoarding information. My team shares that same passion without a doubt.”

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