AFDW molds newest enlisted leaders at 2018 Chiefs’ Orientation Course

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle
  • Air Force District of Washington Command Information
Thirty-nine of the national capital region’s newest eight-stripers and selects gathered at the Gen. Jacob E. Smart Center here March 12 for the 2018 Air Force District of Washington Chiefs’ Orientation Course.

The week-long, immersive professional development opportunity included a spectrum of speakers who candidly addressed critical issues facing today's Air Force in order to help transition the chiefs into their new leadership roles.

Chief Master Sgt. Melanie Noel, AFDW command chief, emphasized that the course provides information and tools designed to prepare the chiefs to lead Airmen at all levels of command.

As the top one percent of the Air Force, the role of chief, she asserted, cannot be understated.

“Chiefs set the tone for the entire enlisted force when it comes to the importance of the mission, professionalism on the job, and combining the two to take care of people to ensure that the mission is complete,” Noel said.

Chief Master Sgt. John Payne, AFDW first sergeant, said in addition to grasping the significance of the one percent, the chiefs and chief-selects must view their new role as both an opportunity and responsibility to create the future “one-percenters.”

“The biggest advantage of being a part of AFDW versus everybody else is that it’s truly unique, worldwide, and gaining an understanding of what our mission brings is something they’ll take away over these next five days,” Payne said as the course began.

Of note, senior leadership speakers included Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright and Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Each emphasized the importance of gauging the pulse of the force and being amenable to new ideas, innovation and feedback from all ranks.

Wright, in particular, conveyed to the chiefs the importance of self-care as a prerequisite to helping others.

“I just want you to feed your mind … you cannot pour into others if you don’t pour into yourself,” the chief said. “I like to learn, I like to grow and I want you to do the same as chiefs. You’ve arrived at the starting line, not the finish line, so there’s a lot more work to do on you.”

According to Master Sgt. Clayton Greenwell, who along with Tech. Sgt. Holly Mason, was a course coordinator, initial planning began in September 2017 and involved contact with more than 80 chief-selects, coordination with 19 briefers, billeting for 16 traveling participants, and 40-plus hours of activities and panels. “There are a lot of great leaders and mentors ready to serve our newly-selected chiefs.”

Chief Master Sgt. Harold Kruger, 811th Operations Group, said the orientation helped him and fellow course attendees further finesse their leadership philosophies.

“My takeaway this week is to refocus your effort on what matters and what you bring to the Air Force, the mission, and America,” Kruger said. “The collection of experiences, data, and wisdom of others here has evoked ideas we’ve had before and brought them to the surface from a different vantage point.”

After an array of mentor- and facilitator-led activities including tours to the Air Force Honor Guard and National Archives, rounding out the course March 16 is the hallowed Medallion Ceremony at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, D.C. The evening event is designed to help seasoned chiefs and other leaders identify and honor the newest holders of the rank.

“It’s probably the most personal moment,” Payne said, “and if they’re able to embrace that moment it carries a lot more value.”

Maj. Gen. James A. Jacobson, AFDW commander, said throughout his 27-year career he’s been asked to officiate a number of promotions and even a few retirements, but perhaps the event for which he takes most pause is the selection to chief. “I think in some ways it’s the most influential position in our United States Air Force,” the general said. “I had some great chiefs mentoring me but I never understood the power of the chief until I actually got to watch [them] from a wing commander’s standpoint get work done.”