U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa held the second annual Atlantic Stripe Conference at the USAFE-AFAFRICA conference room May 15 to 18 on Ramstein Air Base.
Sixty-four participants, including one member of the U.S. Army and five coalition partners, attended the four-day event aimed at strengthening the junior noncommissioned officer tiers and partner nation equivalent.
Participants were selected to attend the conference, which was aimed at deliberately developing junior NCOs by preparing them to serve at higher levels as they continue throughout their careers.
“What you’ll find here is us imparting a curriculum that allows them to see things at a different level,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Steven Beasley, HQ USAFE-AFAFRICA functional manager. “They’re allowed to gain understanding from the experiences of some of the more seasoned senior enlisted members, understand the processes of how we go about doing business in the Air Force, and in general to just learn about military leadership.”
U.S. Air Force Col. Joseph McFall, 3rd Air Force vice commander, opened the conference with anecdotes recalling times in his career when NCOs stood out. Some of the situations included deployed environments where NCOs took command of entire sections during manning shortfalls ensuring mission success through continuity.
Chief Master Sgt. Phillip Easton, USAFE-AFAFRICA command chief master sergeant, followed McFall’s remarks teaching a course on leadership perspective noting success relies on backbone, not wishbone.
“You all are the backbone of our military; we can’t do anything without you,” said Easton. “You can’t walk; you can’t move around, you can’t go left or right without your backbone. It is the thing that everything else is built off of.”
Easton continued, saying the reason he puts so much time into the NCO community, and why he gets so excited speaking in forums like these, is because he feels that if we put our time and effort into strengthening the NCO tier, we’re going to be a better Air Force and our allied nations will have a better military partner.
The professional development conference continued throughout the week granting NCOs the time away from official duties to learn from leaders, mentors, and guest speakers. The topics covered included leadership traits, self-awareness and articulating the mission, specifically to subordinates.
“I think they’re going to benefit because now they’re learning about those principles that will make them better at leading their people,” said Beasley. “Hearing the experiences of leaders who came before them, have made mistakes, have learned from those mistakes and have been successful through their mistakes. I think the NCOs here, for one, will see leadership in a completely different aspect.”