AFSNCOA instructor of the year - Airman trades security forces for leadership opportunity
Accepting the Chief Master Sgt. Billy R. Hunter SNCOA Instructor of the Year Award reaffirmed Master Sgt. Keith Long's decision to leave security forces and make a difference through his flight room. (U.S. Air Force photo by Rebecca Burylo)
by Rebecca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs
4/5/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Walking into his office, one may be surprised to find an instructor with a carpet like a football field and a life-sized panther, but Master Sgt. Keith Long loves more than football. He's a family man who loves his job and his former career with security forces, seen in the award on his shelf and the photos honoring fallen security forces, inspiring him to do what he does.
Instructor and scheduling facilitator at Gunter's Air Force Senior NCO Academy, Long recently won the Chief Master Sgt. Billy R. Hunter SNCOA Instructor of the Year Award.
Chief Master Sgt. Vicki Seal, vice commandant of the SNCOA, is proud to have Long on her team and act as the "face" of the institution.
"He pleasantly surprises me every single day because he's thoughtful," she said. "He's got that insight. His students heap tons and tons of praise on him after every class because he has that way of really reaching them on their level. He's been a tremendous asset."
Long said he knew he was a candidate for the instructor award, but would have never thought that as a former security forces Airman he would have earned such an honor.
"It was humbling, but it was a great surprise," said Long. "I have been at the senior academy four years now, and I have seen some great instructors here. Some people I try to live up to while I'm here. Obviously, this award is the pinnacle of being at this institution."
Long said he tries to model after those who have previously earned the award, some of whom have mentored him while at the academy. He has had the chance to watch their classroom dynamics and see how they gained the respect of their students and staff.
The award recognizes instructors for their superior performance and their significant contributions to the Air Force enlisted professional military education program. Long competed against others assigned to the Senior NCO Academy and those eligible from the Army Sergeants Major Academy, the U.S. Navy Senior Enlisted Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Academy, the German Senior NCO Academy and the Canadian Air Force Command Professional Development and Training Center.
He attributes his openness and candid personality to his success.
"I would like to think that I am a very transparent person. You get who you get," Long said. "I'm very direct, I'm very open and I take that into all my interviews and classrooms, and try to be who I am."
Winning only reaffirms Long's decision to leave his 18-year career with security forces and move his family to Montgomery in July 2009 to teach. It was only a year earlier when he studied at the Senior NCO Academy himself and declined the standard prospective instructor briefing at the end of the class.
However, the course changed his mind. Upon returning to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, where he was stationed at the time, he re-evaluated his decision based on what he had learned. Long wanted to not only improve his own squadron, but wanted to make a difference in future squadrons of the Air Force.
"I wanted a better force. I wanted a better security forces," explained Long. "We have a tendency to sit around in our offices and jobs and complain. Very rarely do people go out and do anything about it. I wanted to go do something about it."
The best way Long thought he could help was through instructing, which would give him the chance to guide and mentor young Airmen, positively influencing their careers and thus positively influencing the Air Force. His first instructor position was at Lackland AFB, Texas.
Though he misses his 'cops,' Long loves the classroom. He has gained the respect of his students through openly sharing the tools he has used in his career, as well as the curriculum given in the modules. Some of the classes he presents to his flight of 16 members include military professional, joint warfighter, leadership and management, team building and development.
"I feel like that one of the reasons I am so effective in the classroom is because I am able to connect with them," said Long. "That award speaks to that. I'm very passionate about making that difference, about being a better leader and about having a better force."