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December Chief's Perspective

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James Rider, assigned to the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Megan Floyd)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James Rider, assigned to the 245th Air Traffic Control Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., May 24, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Megan Floyd)

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

SCANG leaders are everywhere and watching.

If you look around at our younger Airmen on base, you'll see some of the South Carolina Air National Guard’s future leaders. And that is a good thing. We need to remember that it is all of our responsibility to develop these Airmen.

Some of our Airmen may already exhibit qualities and traits of good leadership but may lack the experience and training necessary to further develop their leadership abilities. They look to those more senior individuals for guidance and help. We all have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these Airmen. This is a great responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

As a Master Sgt., years ago, I sat on a promotion board with three nervous young Senior Airmen. All three Airmen expressed to the board members that younger Airmen take notice with 30 percent of what you say, but 70 percent of what you do. Basically, it affirms the old adage "actions speak louder than words." We may not always realize it, but they're watching (and learning from) what we do (or don't do), in issues both big and small. Even though the youngest of Airmen might not say anything, they definitely see all and take it in.

How we handle ourselves speaks volumes to those watching about what they perceive to be acceptable and unacceptable. Do we immediately correct unacceptable actions or behavior? If not, we're condoning that action or behavior in the eyes of others. Do we actively support and participate in professional organizations (i.e. Airman’s council, 5/6 council and Top 3 council) as well as unit, base and military events and encourage our younger Airmen to do the same? Are we good Wingmen? Are we looking out for and taking care of our fellow Airmen? We need to set a good example for our younger Airmen to follow.

We need to encourage our younger Airmen to take on greater responsibility and give them greater responsibility as well. Just because an Airman is not a senior noncommissioned officer, doesn't mean that the Airman isn't ready to take on greater responsibility or leadership roles. I think because of the rank structure we have, where the minimum rank for any position is Staff Sgt., we tend to not consider the Airmen in the ranks of Staff Sgt. or Tech. Sgt. as ready for greater responsibility and leadership roles. This couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, we should begin developing supervisory and leadership skills through tiered responsibility in our Airmen when they're Senior Airmen. We need to continually encourage our younger Airmen to strive to establish themselves as effective first-line supervisors and leaders.

We need to recognize our responsibility and take an active role in developing our future leaders. Take an active leadership and supervisory role by staying involved with them on a continual basis. Use your experience and knowledge to mentor them. Guide and instruct them to ensure they're prepared to accept increased levels of authority and responsibility.

In closing, I want to share that two of the three nervous young Senior Airmen who faced the review board that day decided, after obtaining college degrees and finishing their enlistment commitment, to close the military chapter in their lives. The third young Airman is currently an officer and leader in the Air National Guard. Tomorrow’s leaders are everywhere, closely watching us.