Airman volunteers, leads to support community

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Holly Mansfield
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
You're on a stage with hundreds of people in the crowd watching you, but the lights are so bright that you can't see them. You only hear the silence of the audience.

All you can think about is which direction to walk off stage. Then all of the sudden your name gets called and you realize that the people in the crowd are clapping for you.

For Master Sgt. Courtney King, Mathies NCO Academy superintendent of curriculum, that night she was standing on the stage at the Coast Convention Center in Biloxi, Miss., was the night she would win the Thomas V. Fredian Community Leadership Award and also when she would be humbled by all the help she had received to get where she was.

King started her life as a small town girl living on a farm in Giddings, Texas. She would work together with her family to keep their farm going but didn't realize all her hard work and ability to work as a team would carry over into her career in the Air Force.

"I didn't grow up volunteering a lot in the community because I lived on a farm," said King. "We grew up working together all of the time contributing to the overall mission of the farm. I didn't view it as volunteering. It was a way of life. What I learned is that that has carried over into who I am as a military member, a senior NCO and with volunteering. I'm just contributing to a different mission."

After joining the military in 2000 and graduating basic training, she became a security forces Airman. In 2005, after graduating Airman Leadership School and earning the John L. Levitow Award, she became a security forces technical school instructor. She quickly learned that her passion was teaching and building better people for her community, she said.

From there she moved back to her career field and in 2010 graduated from the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy as a distinguished graduate.

She wanted to get back to teaching so when the opportunity came along, she quickly hopped on the challenge.

"After I had gone back to my career field and then had the opportunity to do a special duty, this is the job that I absolutely wanted because I am back in the classroom teaching and growing and developing people," said King. "In a way you end up growing more yourself from your students and what you do here."

King applied for a spot at the Mathies NCO Academy and because of her military performance, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Nolen, Mathies NCOA commandant, was confident that King would represent the academy well.

"I talked on the phone with her in February 2012," said Nolen. "I was very confident I was getting a super, high speed NCO who would represent the Mathies NCOA and our school the way I thought that it should be represented."

Almost a year into her time at the academy, King was able to not only devote time to develop technical sergeants into successful master sergeants, but also be a leader in the local community.

She believes that she was able to do so many community projects because of her leadership allowing her the time.

"I had the opportunity to be involved in a lot of stuff this year, but you can't be involved and engaged in those things unless your leadership allows you the time," said King. "So between Chief Master Sgt. Nolen and Senior Master Sgt. Moody allowing me to come and go to do those things and balance both work and community involvement I wouldn't have been as involved without those two opening the door to go out and do those things."

When King and her leadership were notified of the nomination deadline, because of the last minute notice, her leadership did the necessary tasks to get her package ready for submission. According to King, the process happened in about a week.

When the night of the event came, King became more excited.

"I love big military events," said King. "You have the opportunity to get dressed up, and they bring in all of these historical items. The ball room is decorated. You are with community leaders as well as fellow branches of service and all of the leaders within those branches. I had my team from the Mathies NCOA and my husband, who is military as well, there to support me.

"You culminate all of that together with being a representative from your organization for this award. It becomes very memorable. You are humbled and honored to be a part of the military as a whole and then you're sitting amongst all of these people that share that same passion."

When she was standing on stage, King remembered thinking to make a right facing movement after the winner is announced. After hearing her name being called she was shocked and realized that she didn't have to walk off stage.

"I was shocked and instantly happy because I could hear my Mathies team cheering for me," said King. "I didn't really move at first because of the shock. We were given very specific instructions that if your name is not called, you execute a right face and exit the stage. So, all I'm thinking in my head is 'Execute a right face and walk off the stage' and when it was my name I really didn't move because I was thinking 'Wow that's me!'"

It was at that moment when King had become the third Airman in a row from the Mathies NCOA to win the award. With excitement in the air and her emotions high, King was very grateful. She remembered all of the people who had helped her win the award.

"It's always nice to be recognized for the work that you do, but I was humbled as well," King said "You know you are excited but you say 'wow, thank you for even considering me for something like this.' Thank you for even looking at me for meeting the criteria for getting this award.

"I'm only as successful as I have been because of the encouragement and opportunities my leadership has given me and the people who have worked with me, for me and around me. It's never been just something I've done by myself."

As a mother, instructor and an Airman, King has advice and hopes for not only her children but also her students. She wants them to have the same values of volunteering and leadership so they can be successful, she explained.

"I absolutely want my children to have that value because all of those things I learned growing up made me who I am today," said King. "I'm at a point where I lead teams more frequently and when you see your team be successful and the happiness it brings to everyone and not just you-- I want my kids to experience that same thing."

With every group she leads, either at work or at a volunteer event, King keeps her teamwork mentality to make sure it's not just about her, it's about the team and the team's goals.

"It's never just about you," she added. "It has to be about the people below and above you and the overall mission. As soon as you make it about yourself, no one is going to want to work with you or for you. You have to really keep what you are doing and who is doing it with you at the forefront of your mind. I think if you are doing those things for the right reasons, then you are going to be successful."