Developing Airmen has always been a crucial part of sustaining a successful organization and allowing members to reach their full potential.
In January, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass published the Enlisted Force Development Action Plan as the way forward for developing Airmen to fight and win future wars.
Although the action plan was published earlier this year, the 24th Intelligence Squadron at Ramstein Air Base has been using a unique construct to deliberately develop its Airmen since fall of 2021.
The squadron is one of many geographically separated units of the 480th Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Wing based out of Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. Leaders across the 24th IS felt their unit was not getting the most out of its private organizations that focused on professional development. To meet their specific needs here, the squadron created a Headhunters Senior Noncommissioned Officer Council, referred to as HHSCO, to better align with their priorities and major graded areas. The four major graded areas of managing resources, leading people, improving the unit, and executing the mission were developed from procedures or requirements based on public law and Department of Defense policies.
“We decided as a group the construct as a private org was not working for us,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Addington, 24th IS senior enlisted leader. “Previous private orgs sometimes got stuck on fundraising, elections and extra bureaucracy. HHSCO is not a private org, but more of a fellowship of professional Airmen deliberately developing each other across the unit.”
The HHSCO differs from typical private organization structures because it is broken into seven different areas, or bins, where SNCOs and company grade officers can lead in a topic they are passionate about. The bins are: foundations, SEL focus, tradecraft and innovation, education, diversity and inclusion, and culture and climate
“While in training, I was always told by everyone to find a senior NCO and follow them wherever they go,” said 2nd Lt. Rachel Solarz, 24th IS analysis and exploitation team lead. “I feel like the SNCO Council makes it really easy to do that because they are there, they are present, and they want to help you.”
The structure of HHSCO allows Airmen to focus on the bin, or bins, they are interested in. Flyers with updated points of contact are regularly circulated through the squadron to ensure all members know how to get in contact with their respective bin.
“It allows people to vector themselves based on what they are passionate about,” Master Sgt. Joshua Driscoll, 24th IS AET flight chief. “If people like professional development, they can go to that bin. If people like teaching about education and life skills and things like that, then they pursue those. It is basically an open outlet for everybody to focus on what is important to them.”
One example of a successful HHSCO program is the squadron’s diversity and inclusion initiatives. Master Sgt. Lisa Vasquez, 24th IS AET flight chief, is the Diversity and Inclusion bin primary point of contact.
“I think we are leading the 693rd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group on this effort,” said Vasquez. “We are actually in the process of helping to rewrite the 480th ISRW’s strategy for diversity and inclusion. We are also reaching out to fortune 500 companies to get their best practices for their diversity and inclusion programs.”
In addition to rewriting wing strategies, the diversity and inclusion bin has hosted virtual town hall meetings to discuss concerns Airmen in the squadron have had. The HHSCO developed an app for members to submit questions and comments anonymously to facilitate open communication.
Another initiative derived from the HHSCO which has allowed Airmen in the 24th IS to thrive is the Airman Leadership Top-Off Course in the foundations bin. Additionally, they planned a resiliency trip to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of the squadron, with their Airman Resiliency Team and tradecraft and innovation bin.
The course, taught by Driscoll, focuses on developing others and stepping into the role of performing as an NCO. The class touches on traditional supervisory duties such as writing bullets, decorations and enlisted performance reports.
Driscoll mentioned that although HHSCO is just getting past the developmental phase, it has been instrumental to the development of Airmen and the unit has no plans of slowing it down.
“We have a few catalysts in the road, but once we hit those catalysts we can really let this boom,” said Driscoll. “We are starting to create a more cyclical structure where it is easier to plug and play people in at a base like Ramstein with a high turnover rate.”
It is clear to members in the 24th IS that HHSCO has been beneficial. Airmen and leaders from the squadron hope the program catches on and is adapted by other organizations across the Air Force.