Is your replacement ready?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Freddie Davis
  • 319th Civil Engineering Squadron
Is your replacement ready? No, not "Are you ready" to be replaced. You're not being fired, A-76'd, or outsourced. But is your replacement ready to fill your shoes? Have you prepared your replacement for when you go on temporary duty, deploy, change station, separate, or retire? You have to because it's coming. Considering only about 10 percent of enlistees stay until retirement and significantly fewer stay for a full 30 years, that's almost constant changeover.

The Air Force is an up-or-out organization; we're supposed to be progressing in our professionalism, experience, education, and subsequent rank from our first day in basic training until our final day of service. Are you making a conscious effort to aid this progression or are you leaving it to chance?

Much of our training throughout our careers is already laid out and can be found in Air Force Instructions, Specialized Training Standards, and a general outline in the Professional Development Guide. However, being taught at technical schools, in professional military education courses, or on-the-job training doesn't create a well-rounded supervisor, leader or manager.

What are you doing with your Airmen after the training? Are you taking the time to find ways for them to use these new abilities? Are you putting them in situations that will continue their growth?

I find it amazing that in every Airman Leadership School class I visit, most of the Airmen talk about how their supervisors didn't use the very tools they were being taught. They talked about how their supervisors could've been more effective with them if they had used what they were taught -- many of them in the very same classroom. I often go on to ask them if they're going to take the same route as their supervisors and always receive an emphatic "No." Yet the cycle continues.

Do we merely assign our newly trained supervisors a couple Airmen and let them go in a trial by fire, so to speak? Shouldn't the second-line supervisors, NCOs in charge and the rest of the chain of command take a more proactive approach to ensure the new supervisor is properly implementing the learned tools? Not micromanaging, but rather guiding them in their growth and development. That's what we do when teaching them their duty skills. We teach them, give them supervised hands-on experience, and once they demonstrate they're capable, we let them do it on their own, but while being monitored the whole time. We do it because it works.

Are you taking advantage of opportunities? I encourage my Airmen to be ready for opportunities to do new things to broaden their abilities, and to always evaluate its appropriateness and not merely say "No," if it doesn't immediately intrigue them. When you close the door to opportunity you never know when it'll open again.

Nonetheless, sometimes I get to ensure they get the chance at growth. When confronted, they almost always say "I don't know how" or "I've never done that, I don't think I can." But that's how we become better and broaden our capabilities. You have to step outside of your comfort zone and take on new challenges. Take it on and you'll surprise yourself, usually realizing it wasn't that difficult after all. Leaders develop this way.

The next time you say in an Enlisted Performance Report that your Airman is ready for additional challenges or responsibility, expanded roles or new duty positions, follow through with it. Don't let them rest on previous accomplishments. Give them solid feedback that shows them how to continue down this path and hold them to it.