DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — Reflecting back on the last decade of the Air Force, just like everything in life, there have been a few highs and lows. However, I believe this is a very exciting time to serve in the United States Air Force. We are focusing on re-growing the force, developing our Airmen, and transforming our service; and the exciting part is that each and every one of us has a role to play in making these changes happen successfully.
As we posture our Air Force for tomorrow’s fight, it is apparent that we need to re-grow our force. The regrowth does not only incorporate adding 20,000 people, it has secondary effects that our Airmen will benefit from.
As we grow our Force there is an in-flux in new personnel that creates a demand for mid-level supervision. This has increased our promotion rates and even increased our “Stripes for Exceptional Performers” or STEP numbers.
The high demands have opened up areas like the Enlisted Pilot Program, which was never an option a few years back. Most recently, senior leaders are looking into the expansion of High Year Tenure to staff sergeants to 20 years of military service and the Selective Re-enlistment Bonus update.
However, as we grow our force, it is important to focus on developing our Airmen into the leaders we need them to be. Although Professional Development is not always spoken about with the same level of excitement, it should be, because the development of our enlisted personnel is what makes us stand out as a force and is imperative to keeping up with the growth.
Our Air Force senior leaders have taken the time to make our development manageable and meaningful. There are only 99 days of in-resident training required over a 30-year career and Course 14 and Course 15 are now not mandatory. That should not only get you excited, but should relieve education anxieties for some.
Now, we can focus on First Term Airmen Courses, Airmen Leadership School, Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Chief Master Sergeant Leadership Course.
Another exciting change is the Developmental Special Duty Program. Now there are 10 developmental positions that our Airmen can be vectored into and these are highlighted in the new 36-2618 Enlisted Force Structure Handbook previously known as “the little brown book.”
Although transformation might seem like a strong word for what we are currently going through, when you consider all of the programs changing at once, I definitely think it applies. One example is the Parental Leave policy change for primary and secondary caregivers.
The Base of Preference program is testing out some updates on select career fields with more to come soon. And of course the update to AFI 36-2903 Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel; it includes updates to tattoos, hair, earrings, medals, ribbons, hand bags, and everyone’s favorite the… Occupational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) uniform.
The transfer from the Airman Battle Uniforms to OCPs starting in October 2018 is a great example of a change to be excited about because it shows you that Air Force leadership is listening to your feedback.
Additionally, a heroic effort to revitalize the squadrons is underway. And if all of that is not enough to get you excited, the planned 2.6% pay raise next year will at least make you smile.
We are making huge strides forward but we have to do it together! What I ask from you is to figure out what your role is. At times like these there are anchors and assets. The anchors tie the boat to keep it from adjusting or moving. An asset is what helps the team move along, brings solutions instead of problems and does it with a great attitude.
As you are asked to move forward and assist with these changes in our Air Force, ask yourself “which one am I?” Are you resisting the changes like an anchor? Or are you helping take our Air Force to the next level with excitement and focus like an asset? I ask you to be an asset. After all, I think it’s about time we stop focusing on what we’re doing wrong and get excited about what we’re doing right.