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January Chief's Concerns

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mark Cronk, with Joint Forces Headquarters, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his photo Jan. 3, 2014.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mark Cronk, with Joint Forces Headquarters, South Carolina Air National Guard, poses for his photo Jan. 3, 2014. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- How to professionally develop our enlisted ranks has been a topic of discussion by our leadership both officer and enlisted throughout the National Guard. The future of the South Carolina Air National Guard and our history of excellence in part, is dependent upon how we professionally development our Airmen today, to produce the future leaders of tomorrow.

AFI 36-2618, commonly referred to the little brown book, states that in the Airman and NCO tier we are to pursue professional development through on and off duty education (military or civilian). One aspect of professional development is to enhance our leadership skills. Leadership is everyone's responsibility. Leadership is a trait that we all should strive to become better at, no matter what our rank. Simply put, leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he/she wants to do it. No matter what our natural born leadership skills are, we should always continue to passionately pursue becoming a better leader.

The best way to become better at anything is to practice. How do we "practice" becoming a leader, you might ask? Well things like attending in-residence Professional Military Education (PME), becoming an active member of a professional organization, volunteering for committees or councils on base, or pursuing higher education would be a few examples. In essence, we should place ourselves in positions that cause us to be responsible for making decisions, directing people, and learning from those around us.

Additionally, we as a Wing have had several off-sites for our TOP 3 and most recently our mid-level NCOs that focused on professional development. When these opportunities arise we should do our best to attend. Other ideas would be to attend seminars, read books or study leadership practices. One of the primary goals on any enlisted Airman should be to attend in-residence PME. Although we have a limited number of seats for in-residence PME, enlisted Airmen should actively pursue the chance to attend. As a former graduate of in-residence PME, the camaraderie, pride and esprit de corps that I experienced is a highlight of my military career.

There are three main tiers of PME for the NCO ranks. First is Airman Leadership School (ALS), with the principal instructional method being guided discussions, in which students share ideas, experiences and work together to achieve various educational objectives. Next is Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA), with the principal method of instruction being discussions and case studies. Lastly is Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy (SNCOA), with a principal instructional method of a 12-16 member flight guided discussion, aimed to achieve comprehension levels with follow-on application level experiential exercises and case studies.

If you are unable to attend in residence for the entire course, Satellite ALS and NCOA are offered periodically at McEntire to accommodate your schedule and availability. Another way to develop your leadership skills is to step up and volunteer for a council or committee on base. Don't wait to be asked, volunteer and take an active role in the mission of the council or committee.

These focuses to professionally develop our Airmen directly supports our Adjutant General's priority: to provide a competent, ready force for our state and nation. Professional development in our NCO ranks is critical to maintaining a high level of competence, professionalism and commitment required of our Airmen today. As part of this, leadership ensures that discipline, standards and training goals are achieved as the force prepares for the next upcoming challenge.

As stated above, another way to "practice" is to attend seminars, read books or study leadership practices. Dr. John C. Maxwell is a noted author and speaker that specializes in teaching about successful leadership. According to Maxwell, there are five levels in the development of a leader: Position, Permission, Production, and People Development. He states that "no matter what their station in life, once Airmen understand their leadership determines their position and not the other way around, then and only then are they ready to distinguish and understand the five levels of leadership - promoting their growth through each level until they've reach their highest leadership potential."

Each level in Maxwell's pyramid works toward a leader who successfully earns the respect of their people, a characteristic of all great leaders. Dr. Maxwell's books and seminars are a great way to "practice".

Our highest goal should be to develop leaders, not gain followers or do more work. This will help ensure the future success of the South Carolina Air National Guard.