Today’s changing Airmen, tomorrow’s Air Force

  • Published
  • By By Master Sgt. Gordon Comerford
  • 338 Training Squadron first sergeant
Change....where would the Air Force be without it? I suppose we would still be part of the Army working on P-51 Mustangs and using typewriters to correspond. 

The Air Force was literally created out of a need for change. Propeller-driven fighter aircraft gave way to faster, more powerful jets, and now unmanned aerial vehicles have taken the place of many manned aircraft. We've shifted the way we deploy to be more efficient, and even our uniforms got a facelift. All these changes were needed and have significantly improved our ability to be the world's best Air Force. 

One change that often gets overlooked is our Airmen. Maybe it's because there wasn't a two-week training course or because they didn't have a fancy new slogan attached to them when they arrived. New Airmen arrive every day and we hardly notice that they've had completely different life experiences than we had growing up. 

I recall my first duty section had one computer, sitting in the corner, and it was usually in the off-mode. It didn't have e-mail and no one wanted to be the one to have to use it. Now, there is one on every desk and Airmen know how to use them and use them well. Nearly all of them know more than we seasoned veterans know about computers, video games and the latest lingo. The reason is simple: the world has changed since we were young Airmen. 

This unnoticed change often leads to misconceptions about the desire, work ethic and attitudes of our young Airmen. I remember sitting in the NCO Academy auditorium when a chief master sergeant asked, "Who thinks Airmen today just aren't the same as they used to be?" Nearly every technical sergeant raised their hand. The chief replied, "That's what we thought about you." 

We, as leaders, must constantly change our tactics to lead the next generation of Airmen. It won't be an easy task and will take some time to change our thinking. We have to understand today's Airmen have the same desire to propel the Air Force into the future as we did; they just go about it differently. 

Today's Airmen are technology driven and darn good at it. They're the perfect candidates to lead our Air Force into the ever-changing and highly-technical battlefield. We need to take some time to learn about latest video games or watch the latest YouTube videos. Learn what drives and motivates them. 

Our Airmen are the best educated and most technically proficient in history. The point here is that if you take a few minutes to get to know your Airmen and realize that they're from a different generation, then you might be surprised at how eager they are to accomplish the mission. The Air Force will continue to change as it always has, but we'll be ready thanks to the next generation of great Airmen.