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Tech. Sgt. Steven Pierce Jr. and Master Sgt. Shane Merillar, both from Air Force Legal Operation Agency and attending the Senior NCO Professional Development Seminar, run during a physical training session at Maxwell Air Force Base, Nov. 21. The annual course also serves as the lead up to the senior NCO induction ceremony. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class William Blankenship)
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Adding 'senior' to NCO

Posted 12/3/2013   Updated 12/3/2013 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class William J. Blankenship
42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

12/3/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -  -- It takes about 15 years for enlisted members to be considered technical experts in their career fields. At what point, however, do they become leaders so that those behind them can become successful in their own right?

That point is when a noncommissioned officer gets "the point," the chevron that rests above the rest.

Newly selected master sergeants at Maxwell-Gunter and from Reserve and Guard units in the region spend a week at Maxwell Air Force Base in the Senior NCO Professional Development Seminar. The annual course also serves as the lead up to the Senior NCO induction ceremony.

The seminar is designed to harness the leadership tools they've learned thus far in their Air Force careers so they can then help others advance in their careers.

"We teach the master sergeant-selects the things that Air Force leadership has deemed necessary for them to know as they take on their new responsibilities as Senior NCOs," said Master Sgt. Jonathan Wilson, Thomas N. Barnes Center PME course designer. "These Airmen have been selected to become senior NCOs, so they are already leaders in their career fields. We want to add to the tools that got them to where they are and foster an environment that creates a successful transition into their new responsibilities."

In the seminar, students are exposed to subjects such as temperament discovery, counseling and mentoring, stress management, team building and motivation. They also meet with junior Airmen from all ranks and career fields.

"Listening to what the junior Airmen had to say on the panel was refreshing and helpful to me," said Master Sgt. Vicky Matthews, 908th Air Reserve Wing, who attended the seminar held in October. "Finding out their ideas and being considerate of what is happening in their lives is critical to your unit morale. Taking care of your people and giving them a chance to shine is important, because it is their turn now."

Matthews said that while everyone in the class is an expert in their field, they learned a lot about transitioning into a managerial role.

"The week has showed me how much I need to learn on how to let go," she said. "I need to spend more time writing award packages and giving my guys an opportunity to shine. While I am a hands-on person, my guys cannot learn if I am always right there standing over their shoulders."

The new leaders of the enlisted corps also meet with organizations such as the Top Three, giving them another outlet to pursue relationships with Airmen who may be dealing with similar situations in their Air Force careers.

The seminar also gives them insight about working alongside people from various career fields and their peers on active duty and in the Reserve and Guard.

"I enjoyed networking with other senior NCOs," said Matthews. "Hearing ideas and experiences from others in my class gave me a lot to take back to my unit and implement into the way that we do things. Not just new things, but 'old-school' things like standing up when a senior ranking individual walks into a room."

Wilson added that these new networking relationships reach beyond the week of instruction.

"If they build these relationships now, it can give them a network to lean on as they lead larger groups of Airmen," she explained.

Finishing the week with an induction ceremony may have felt like the end to their journey, but many in the class realized that while this may seem like a conclusion, it was really only the beginning.

"Now we have to go back to our units and take what we have learned and leave things better than we found them," said Matthews. "It is time to leave our legacy."

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