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One step closer to staff sergeant

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss --

In the Air Force, and military as a whole, there are many, many instances of training seminars, esprit de corps functions, mentoring moments and professional development to be experienced. Few functions I’ve attended in my short career have worked to incorporate all those themes into one concise package though, with the exception of one.

I recently attended the NCO Induction Orientation as part of my selection for promotion to staff sergeant. The daylong seminar incorporated visits from the base command chief, a couple group and squadron command chief master sergeants, senior NCOs and NCOs fulfilling Developmental Special Duty positions, the base career assistance advisor, two first sergeants and more.

We started our day off at 6:30 a.m. with a group physical training session on I-81, the track looping around the flightline. Dressed in our finest superhero-themed t-shirts, we went for a run. Periodically, our instructors for the day paused our run for pushups, sit-ups and nuggets of NCO wisdom.

Following a shower, change of uniform and quick breakfast, it was time to really start our day. Chief Master Sgt. Vegas Clark, 81st Training Wing command chief, was our first visitor. Being new to the base, Chief shared his story, hit us with some early-morning motivation and shared his philosophy on how NCOs, the backbone of the Air Force, can be the best at what they do – get to know our people.

Trust plus relationships equals impact, he told us. In my Air Force experience thus far, no truer words have been spoken.

Next up were a couple chiefs from the 81st Medical Group; Chief Master Sgts. Karl Day and Sandra Nunes, 81st MDG superintendent and 81st Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, respectively. After introductions, Chief Day closed the doors to outside visitors and encouraged us to ask questions. The two chiefs offered us open, honest answers about roles, responsibilities and experiences, some good and some bad, gleaned from their 25 years of experience.

Be deliberate, the chiefs said. Be honest and seek out mentors. The two chiefs’ open dialog meant to push us to think about our new positions as NCOs and to recognize the importance of what we’ll be doing.

Throughout the rest of the day we had a myriad of visitors; Airman Leadership School and NCO Academy instructors, military training leaders and technical school instructors and first-term airmen stopped by to share experiences, expectations, advice and knowledge.

Two first sergeants, Master Sgt. Audrey McCoy, 81st Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutics Squadron first sergeant, and Master Sgt. Linford Smith, and 81st Force Support Squadron first sergeant, offered a refresher on what their position entails, why it’s important for us to know our unit’s first sergeant and a push to understand the importance of being a good supervisor.

They asked us what kind of NCOs we’re going to be and said we’ll have the power to change things; to make life better for our subordinates and superiors. The shirts told us we got where we’re at today by being the best Airmen – now it’s our turn to grow the best Airmen; to grow leaders.

Toward the end of the day, it was time to wrap things up with the real reason for the day – the NCO Induction Ceremony. With a uniform change into service dress and a quick rundown of the ceremony’s proceedings, we were ready to be inducted into the NCO ranks. Using a ceremonial pen gifted to each of us in attendance by the local 5/6 Council, each senior airman in attendance signed our certificate, also signed by Chief Clark, officially recognizing our transition to staff sergeants.

As our line numbers come up and we promote throughout the year, we’ll continue to learn more about our transition to the next rank, through both firsthand experience and days like this one. I look forward to learning and growing with all the staff sergeants selects of 2016!