MTL discovers strength through mentoring Airmen

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Holly Mansfield
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
"We can get the briefing upstairs done, then I can finish speaking to the Airmen leaders and we will still have four minutes to do a final run-through before retreat starts."

These are the words of Tech. Sgt. Percy Fish III as he conducts three tasks at once so trainees at the 81st Training Group can accomplish their end-of-day assignments. With this enthusiasm for his job, Fish shows his Airmen how to not only excel in academics but also be professional Airmen. Fish is leaving his mark on the 81st TRG by using his passion for being the best Airman that he can be.

Chief Master Sgt. Glen Usherwood, 81st Mission Support Group superintendent and former 81st TRG, has seen Fish grow as a leader since he arrived at Keesler five years ago.

"I have witnessed Sergeant Fish grow professionally through our interaction over time and that's because he understands that for him to truly lead and develop our Airmen, he has to grow personally," Usherwood said. "He makes it a point to learn from all around him, including the Airmen."

According to Fish, who currently serves as the 81st TRG military training operations office flight chief, being assigned to Keesler is one of the best gifts that he has gotten from the Air Force, because the unique training mission has helped him learn and grow.

As a senior airman, Fish sat in a chief master sergeant's office looking for direction. He wanted to find out how to become a first sergeant. The answer he received would later help push him out of his comfort zone and into a leadership role to help develop others.

"Becoming an MTL was very deliberate," said Fish. "The chief said the first thing is that I would have to be ready for it. I asked him how he got ready for it and he said that he became a military training leader."

After Fish was promoted to staff sergeant, he became an MTL at Keesler.  He knew that it would be challenging, but he wasn't prepared for conquering one of his biggest fears on his first day on the job.

"I came here with a fear of public speaking," said Fish. "I had no clue just how difficult it would be for me on day 1 when I stood up on a podium in front of 600 people and had to give the notes of the day. That will break your fear of public speaking very quickly. Being an MTL has allowed me to get over a lot of the things that I wasn't prepared to do as a noncommissioned officer."

Fish began to advance himself by helping his Airmen grow. He quickly learned by seeing the impact that he would make on each of their careers.

"My favorite thing about being an MTL is having an effect on Airmen," said Fish. "I benefit from the Airmen that I talk to and mentor, and that experience is priceless. You are given so many opportunities to work with someone and get to mold them that it develops you also. We are molding these Airmen. That's the beauty of it. We get to shape somebody's career."

For an MTL, an Airman fresh out of basic training might need extra help adjusting them to a new way of life. Fish found that he would have to mold himself into the leader that his Airmen needed.

"It's difficult to continuously nitpick yourself," said Fish. "I try to do that so I can become the best version of me. I wanted to develop myself further, get over my fear of public speaking, get more comfortable with counseling sessions and get better at molding others. I got lucky that I was able to have the time to better myself and I was able to make technical sergeant while I was here. I think I was able to be prepared to be a technical sergeant because of being a MTL."

Fish has made an impact on his Airmen, peers and superiors. After moving from the squadron level to the head MTL for the training group, Fish showed senior enlisted members, like Usherwood, that he has grown into the leader that he wanted to be.

"I think Fish is a superb role model for the tech training students primarily because he 'walks the walk,'  -- he sets a great example through word and deed," said Usherwood. "He exemplifies the core values, holds himself to a very high standard, and leads from the front. I wish every technical sergeant in the Air Force was as much of a professional as Fish; he always has a great attitude, a superior work ethic, and gets things done."

"Being a great MTL is being a great supervisor -- one that takes care of their Airmen, including providing direct, frank feedback when needed, showing the Airmen you genuinely care about their success and being a great role model. Fish does these things every day," Usherwood added.

At the end of the day, it's the satisfaction of seeing his Airmen succeed that makes being an MTL so rewarding.    

"When your former Airmen show up to your office to fix your computer because they work in the communications squadron and they are repairing the smallest things for you, you really get to see how awesome they are," said Fish. "It's outstanding to see their success. Knowing that I had a part in it makes my job worth it."