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August Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Smith, the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for a portrait July 12, 2017.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Richard Smith, the 169th Civil Engineer Squadron commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for a portrait July 12, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

How is the South Carolina Air National Guard able to maintain its status as one of, if not the, number one premiere fighter wing in the Air Force and Air National Guard? How are we able to rise to every challenge and exceed expectations? It is encapsulated in one word…TRAINING.  Effective training is not something that just happens over a drill weekend. To be effective, training has to be properly planned and resourced, well in advance. This is true of all training events, large and small. As leaders and members within the wing, we all work very hard to ensure events requiring passenger and equipment movements in support of offsite training events (Fighter Squadron - Korea, 245th – Hawaii, FSS – Mendenhall, CE – Ramstein) are properly planned, resourced and executed. I would argue that the small individual and section tasks executed here at McEntire are more important and require just as much if not more of our attention.

Training begins with the individual Airmen on day one and continues throughout their career. It is vital to the success of each organization, that every Airmen is trained to do core individual tasks, not only to understand their role in the success of their shop, but how contribution directly affects the overall success at the Flight, Squadron, Group and Wing levels. Since it is the most important, let us focus the remainder of this discussion on individual and small unit training tasks and preparation.

In today’s ever changing and challenging environment, we all must be vigilant and creative to maximize training opportunities wherever we can. We operate in a budget constrained environment, always doing more with less. So what can you do? It’s not as hard as it sounds because not all training is formalized on a training schedule. Here are some examples of how to maximize your effectiveness:

  • Know your job, seek out people in your field and ask questions. You would be surprised just how effective a well-timed question can be transformed into your next training event as either an instructor or student. I often find myself asking the same questions of both seasoned noncommissioned officers and young Airmen, the surprised look when their answers differ can lead to some excellent training.

  • If you are a leader in your organization, you should always have some hip pocket training ready. During Regularly Scheduled Drill periods we only have a small amount of time to complete all of our required tasks for the month. Those small amounts of time in between activities is the perfect time to review an upcoming task or one that is on an individual’s training record. Is it something that you can sign off on or at least review?  Use every minute that you have available with your Airmen.

  • Preparation for RSD is more than showing up on Saturdays for formation. This is true for ALL members. NCOs and Officers should be using the time between RSDs to prepare resources. Airmen should use the time to hone their skills, complete career development courses, professional development courses, etc. We should always be preparing ourselves. Gone are the days of, “One weekend a month, two weeks a year.”

  • I have the words “task, condition, and standard” written on the board in my office.  Ensure that your training includes these measurable items.

  • Lastly, but most importantly, conduct your training to a standard; not to the available time allocated. I would rather spend twice as long or more working on a single task, becoming proficient on it than I would stop and move on to another task. While some may argue that we must complete everything that we have on the schedule, in other words the training objective is to complete all tasks within the allocated arbitrary time period, I would say that technical and tactical proficiency is gained through an understanding of the task, no matter how long it may take.

I will leave you with one final question:  How effective is a unit that does not work to maximize training opportunities? I would challenge everyone at all levels to seek out these opportunities, to challenge yourselves and your wingmen. Leaders train your subordinates to take your position one day and Airmen should know your bosses job so you can take over. Proficiency at the individual task level leads to greater success at the collective level.