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Developing leaders

PETERSON AFB, Colo. -- Today our Air Force is on a glide slope to be roughly the same size as we were in 1947 when we became independent of the Army.

With such a small force, it is absolutely imperative that we focus on developing Airmen leaders at all levels of our service. In fact, developing and caring for our Airmen and their families is one of three specific priorities used to judge every choice our Air Force makes to maintain our competitive advantage. When each of us raised our hands and took the oath, we identified ourselves as leaders. It is up to us to develop and mentor our Airman at all levels in order to successfully accomplish our mission.

Nowhere is this strategy more apparent than right here in the 21st Space Wing. On July 5, I met several Airmen within the 21st Operations Group who are taking our Air Force to a higher level of performance. Tech. Sgt. Cliff Cecil of the 21st Operations Support Squadron, wing lead for the Upgraded Early Warning Radar system, really makes a difference. Master Sgt. Niki Beard, first sergeant for the 76th Space Control Squadron, provides outstanding support for the entire "Vanguard" team and their family members. Maj. Jeff Bell, an Air Force Reserve member assigned to the 18th SPCS, makes great things happen, not only as a flight commander, but also as a fill-in maintenance officer for the 16th SPCS.

This past week, Chief Master Sgt. Tim Omdal, 21st SW command chief, and I spent a day focusing on our enlisted force. We started out in the morning and ate breakfast with the wing's first sergeants. At the First Term Airman Center, I met Master Sgt. Kristin Clark, a career assistance advisor who has transformed her role into one of developing Airmen and officers of all ranks. At the Airman Leadership School, I was introduced to Master Sgt. Tami Toma and her three instructors, each dedicated to developing our most critical leaders - front line supervisors.

Next, I ate lunch with Senior Airman Garret Smith, a contracting specialist with the 21st Contracting Squadron, who is clearly among the top-tier performers in our wing. At the NCO Academy, I talked with Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Young who, on his 40th birthday, walked me through the curriculum that our technical sergeants receive when they attend that school.

Later in the day, I met Senior Airman David Holman of the 21st Medical Group. Airman Holman leads the Dormitory Council and is also a dorm chief. At the end of the day, I spoke with Tech. Sgt. Melissa Hargis, 21st MG, who is heavily involved in the Air Force Sergeants Association and the Junior Enlisted Association. Her civic involvement and mentorship to the enlisted force clearly show her desire to develop and care for all Airmen and their families.

That evening we ate dinner with the deployed spouses at the chapel and it was a superb event. Thanks to Master Sgt. Kurt Stoefen and the Peterson First Sergeants for leading the effort. One of the key missions our wing performs is deploying expeditionary Airman and a vital part of that is taking care of the families that remain behind. All of these Team Peterson warriors exemplify the concept of developing their abilities, recognizing their full potential, and helping others grow in a similar fashion.

There are plenty of opportunities available on Peterson to develop as Airmen and leaders. A few closing thoughts ... first, never pass up an opportunity to lead - our wing needs leaders at all levels. Second, take advantage of the opportunities offered on base; remember, it's Professional Military Education (PME), not Optional Military Education. Finally, be a mentor. Help develop those that will take your place in our Air Force.