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Face Time

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Cary Anderson
  • 23rd Combat Communications Squadron
During my time in the Air Force, I have been supervised by most, managed by some, but led by only a few. I admired and can recall every one of the leaders, but can't necessarily recall the names of the supervisors and managers. Why? I think it is most likely because leaders shaped my life as a whole, and the others just told me what I had to do day to day.

The Air Force has changed a lot in my 30 years in it. In my opinion the biggest change has been information technology, and as a communicator I have been on the leading edge of it for all 30 years. Technology has obviously let us do more with less and with less risk to life, but there are downsides:

1. The loss of face to face communication.
2. The consolidation of career fields, additional duties and tasks. This can lead to task saturation of an Airman, and even more so of an NCO - which negatively impacts mission accomplishment.

Technology doesn't improve leadership ability. NCOs have got to lead Airmen, train Airmen, and consistently maintain standards. This isn't effectively done via email, instant messenger, text, Internet, social media or even the phone. This means spending time with the individual Airman, which in itself is hard to do as NCOs have to accomplish more with less. Without practice it can become hard to communicate or maintain standards in person. It takes courage for an NCO to use inherent authority and responsibility in training, maintaining, leading and caring for Airmen.
A leader is willing to say the hard thing to your face, and technology often is used to fill the square in lieu of having the nerve to do it in person. NCOs need to spend personal time to allow Airmen to grow, be safe, and allow them to be able to take care of their families and accomplish the mission successfully. In this age of stack ranking and stratification in the Air Force, it is more important than ever for NCOs to spend time with their Airmen to ensure well rounded leaders make it to the top of the heap verses the best written electronic folder. As a NCO, the most valuable thing you can give an Airman is your time.

A knowledgeable Airman is a force multiplier in many ways. This Airman not only successfully accomplishes required duties, but also excels to go above and beyond. This Airman is often sought out by junior Airmen for advice, peers for knowledge, and NCOs to increase chances of mission success. Knowledgeable Airmen can't get that way by themselves; they are built by competent NCOs. Ensure your Airmen are well trained on tasks, can look up required information, meet all standards, have an additional duty, complete their Personal Military Education, appreciate Air Force history and military traditions, and comprehend their place in our mission. The consummate NCO will also explain constantly so an Airman understands not only what is required of them, but why. When forged by a competent NCO, an Airman will have the courage and knowledge to be a leader too.

Airmen want a NCO who acts like he or she is in charge. They want a professional who sets standards and then enforces them. They want a leader who will stick up for them. But, most important, they want somebody who knows the regulations, enforces them fairly, and gets on with the job at hand. Good NCOs are not just born, they are groomed and grown through a lot of hard work and strong leadership by senior NCOs. To ensure Airmen are set up for success requires a world class NCO corps to train, lead and care for our Airmen, as they deserve no less.