Developing tomorrow's leaders through today's leadership

  • Published
  • By Maj. Michael Manning
  • 81st Training Support Squadron

During my previous assignment at the Pentagon, I had the opportunity to tour the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Among its displays, I found a quote from Confucius, "Give instruction unto those who cannot procure it for themselves." This quote had very personal meaning as I prepared for my role here as the 81st Training Support Squadron commander.

The words of Confucius reminded me how critically important quality training and development are for all Airmen, and the great responsibility we all hold to support Keesler’s training mission. The Airmen training here at Keesler will move on to support avionics maintenance, comptroller, radio and radar systems maintenance, communications electronics, computer systems, air traffic control, weather, personnel, and command and control systems across the Air Force and the Defense Department.

What we do here each day will have a lasting and significant impact on the ability of the United States to dominate air, space and cyberspace far into the future.

We are all Airmen, but we are also students, mentors, educators and trainers. As officers and NCOs, we’re charged with providing continual development through cutting-edge, individualized education and training that will help Airmen become proficient in problem solving, decision making and mission completion in uncertain and contested environments.

To accomplish these goals, there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to training. Continual development goes for technical training Airmen, their instructors and their leadership. By encouraging innovation through all ranks and positions, we strive to make Keesler a successful stepping stone in the careers of our Airmen where personal and professional development is fostered.

“You are always on parade.”

This quote from Gen. George Patton is seldom truer than within Air Education and Training Command. Keesler’s military and civilian instructors have a constant responsibility to be role models and mentors. While serving as a student squadron commander at Officer Training School, we received feedback from different technical training schools about our recently-graduated officers as examples of leadership during their classroom discussions.

The feedback, both good and bad, provided insight as to how these new Airmen perceived the new officers, and often that experience was the first opportunity for trainees to interact with officers. I took this feedback as a great source of honor and responsibility; we had only one chance to show the new Airmen how professional military members conducted themselves. Through each interaction, we create a foundation upon which to base our own future actions as Air Force leaders.

The students at Keesler have an incredible opportunity to learn not only from the training material provided in the classroom, but to watch and learn from the daily encounters with the military and civilian members assigned here.

At some point, our students will require medical attention, help with financial or personal issues, and many other things. During these exchanges with different agencies, they will be watching to see how members of the Air Force perform their jobs and demonstrate our core values and standards. The students will observe how we dress, maintain our customs and courtesies, and model ourselves as professional military members. For most, this learning will be far more valuable than anything they will learn from a textbook.

Dating back to the first technical training school developed here in 1941, Keesler has a tradition of service and honor. And since that time, thousands of Airmen have traveled through its gates on their way to defend freedom all around the world.

Forged by a corps of professionals, the initial training Airmen, Soldiers, Coast Guardsmen, Sailors and Marines receive here prepares them to take on the tasks handed down by leadership and encourages them to be inspired, innovative, adaptive and forward-thinking.

We ask a lot of our Airmen. In return, we will continue to develop them throughout their careers with our technical expertise and our constant demonstration of standards and traditions.

Our role as mentors and leaders will enable a successful career-long approach to training and education for our Airmen to continue to deliver the world's most dominant air, space, and cyber power.