Ramstein’s newest senior NCOs gathered March 7 at the 86th Force Support Squadron building on Ramstein in order to gain additional leadership skills and refresh themselves on what it means to be part of the Air Force’s highest enlisted tier.
Senior Master Sgt. David Stollings Jr., 86 FSS career assistance advisor, explained that NCOs who are selected to promote to Master Sergeant will wait longer than one year before their next professional military education experience. The three-day professional enhancement seminar helps bridge the PME gap between Air Force NCO Academy and Senior NCO Academy, he said.
“Not only do they have the opportunity to learn about what it means to be a senior NCO, but they also interact with their peers to discuss scenarios which pose challenges to Airmen and leaders,” Stollings said.
Stollings added that the course is meant to be interactive, and that participants were encouraged to provide their inputs and theories during group discussions.
“We want them to actually think thoroughly about every situation and deliberately debate topics in an academic setting,” he said. “We don’t want to produce status quo leaders, we want to develop leaders who can think and make decisions based on what is right, not what is popular.”
According to Air Force Instruction 36-2618, senior NCOs lead and manage teams, provide guidance to leadership, translate leaders’ decisions into specific tasks, and help Airmen internalize the Air Force core values.
Master Sergeants, particularly, are in a state of transition from being first-line supervisors to leaders of operational competence, according to the AFI.
One of the guest speakers at the training was Senior Master Sgt. DeMarcus Tate, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa superintendent of military personnel branch. Tate encouraged the attendees to value their roles as overseers of their units. Taking care of Airmen is more important than attaining a high rank, he said.
“You can’t let the Air Force tell you that what is on your sleeves is who you are,” Tate said. “Even if I were to be the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, I still wouldn’t be gratified. My job is to take care of my folks, my Airmen — nothing can be more gratifying than that. That means more than any stripe that I’ve ever put on.”
Tate also cautioned senior NCOs against prioritizing their careers ahead of their families, saying a person’s career should not overshadow the importance of their loved ones. Their families will remain even after they retire from the Air Force, he said.
“When you take off the uniform, who will be there for you,” Tate asked the audience. “Hopefully your family, if you did it right.”
Other topics scheduled to be covered during the seminar include lessons on enhancing human capital, team building and motivation, aerospace physiology, standards and discipline, and a Chief Master Sergeants’ panel.
While the variety of talking points discussed during the seminar went many different ways, they all point toward the same direction: To be a leader means to be a servant.
Towards the end of his talk, Tate challenged those in attendance to chart their own course in their career.
“What is your purpose,” Tate prodded them. “What is your legacy? Don’t let anyone else write it for you. Determine your own legacy.”