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Future leaders walk among us

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Vic Guerra
  • 171st Air Refueling Wing
If you look around at the younger Airmen on base, you'll see some of our Wing's future leaders. That wasn't meant to frighten anyone, but a reminder of our responsibility in developing these Airmen.

Some of our Airmen may already be exhibiting qualities and traits of good leadership, but may lack the experience and training necessary to further develop their leadership abilities. They look to those individuals more senior to them for guidance and help. We all have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of these Airmen. This is a great responsibility that should not be taken lightly.

An Airman who recently met the Wing's Outstanding Airman of the Year Board expressed to the board members that younger Airmen notice 10% of what you say, but 80% of what you do. (I'm not sure what happens to the other 10%, though a couple of thoughts come to mind.) The board members thought this a very interesting statement for a young Airman to make, and I do as well. Basically, it affirms the old adage "actions speak louder than words." We may not always realize it, but they're watching (and learning from) what we do (or don't do), in issues both big and small.

How we handle ourselves speaks volumes to those watching about what they perceive to be acceptable and unacceptable. Do we immediately correct unacceptable actions or behavior? If not, we're condoning that action or behavior in the eyes of others. Do we actively support and participate in professional organizations as well as unit, base and military events and encourage our younger Airmen to do the same? Are we good Wingmen; are we looking out for and taking care of our fellow Airmen? We need to set a good example for our younger Airmen to follow.

We need to encourage our younger Airmen to take on greater responsibility and give them greater responsibility as well. Just because an Airman is not a senior non-commissioned officer, doesn't mean that the Airman isn't ready to take on greater responsibility or leadership roles. I think because of the rank structure we have, where the minimum rank for any position is Staff Sgt., we tend not to consider the Airmen in the ranks of Staff Sgt. or Tech. Sgt. ready for greater responsibility and leadership roles. This couldn't be farther from the truth. In fact, we should begin developing supervisory and leadership skills through progressive responsibility in our Airmen when they're Senior Airman. We need to continually encourage our younger Airmen to strive to establish themselves as effective first-line supervisors and leaders.

We need to recognize our responsibility and take an active role in developing our future leaders. Take an active leadership and supervisory role by staying involved with them on a continual basis. Use your experience and knowledge to mentor them. Guide and instruct them to ensure they're prepared to accept increased levels of authority and responsibility. Assist them in reaching their full potential, for they are our future leaders.