Air Force investment in professional development: more than you might think

CMSgt Victoria Gamble, Air Mobility Command command chief

CMSgt Victoria Gamble, Air Mobility Command command chief

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. --

The General Electric Women's Network sponsors a conference each year. It has become quite noted within many Fortune 500 companies, not only in the United States, but abroad, making attendance highly sought after. So you can imagine my surprise when I received an invitation to this year's event. GE decided to invite active duty military women for the first time, not only to include then in the women's leadership and learning event, but to find out what companies can do for military veterans and their spouses. GE's commitment to diversity is recognized throughout industry and they have several affinity networks to include African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and women just to name a few.

GE asked us to speak on the first day of the conference followed by a half-hour with a moderator and questions from the audience. Attendees consisted of about 200 women executives from across GE sectors including engines, health care, finance, energy, transportation and manufacturing. Other companies represented were a cross section of industries and included CISCO CITI Bank, Bank of America, American Airlines, Princeton University, Cleveland Clinic and numerous small businesses. The military women shared billing with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand via Skype, Chelsea Clinton, Samantha Power, and the CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt. We spoke about the importance of hiring veterans and their spouses. We also shared personal experiences about how our military service had made us leaders both at work and in our local communities. Later, during the evening events, numerous executives asked us how to hire veterans and their spouses. They also said we were, without a doubt, the best part of the program.

As I spoke with these executives, I tried to find out how their companies developed them professionally. I was surprised when some of them answered, they were sent to Greensboro, North Carolina to the Center for Creative Leadership or to Gettysburg for the leadership experience. The reason it surprised me is because the Air Force has sent me to those schools as well, in addition to the NCO preparatory school, the NCO academy and the Air Force Senior NCO Academy. None of these corporations had invested the amount of money the Air Force invested in me to complete my secondary education. None of them could touch the very generous Community College of the Air Force degree programs, match the scale of the tuition assistance program or come close to the new Montgomery GI Bill. Just think, I entered the Air Force with a high school diploma and will leave with a master's degree.

There is no company in the world that is more focused on deliberately developing their employees than the United States Air Force. We should seize every opportunity the Air Force gives us to improve both our leadership and critical thinking skills. This investment in our development is simply unmatched and should be used to continue to power a responsive and innovative Air Force.

Sun Tzu once said, "Opportunities multiply as they are seized."

I hope all Airmen are capitalizing on all the amazing opportunities our Air Force provides. In the end, I'm very thankful for this experience and even more proud to be an American Airman. This visit really opened my eyes to just how much the Air Force has invested in its people and how the Air Force truly lives up to Excellence In All We Do.