New Flight Leader Course at Grand Forks AFB
By Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez, 319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 15, 2018
GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The installation’s first Flight Leader Course was provided to enlisted members, officers and civilian employees in leadership positions May 8-10, 2018, in the Professional Development Center at Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota.
The three-day course is designed to cover topics usually not provided in any other form of Air Force professional development, to include progress the Air Force is making, advice from a panel of first sergeants, effective feedback and expectation management, and the 319th Air Base Wing commander’s personal perspective.
The initiative for the course was a challenge sent to all wings within the Air Combat Command from Gen. Mike Holmes, commander of ACC, whose priorities include building and empowering leaders through education, training and experience.
Col. Benjamin Spencer, 319 ABW commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Brian Thomas, 319 ABW command chief, expressed the importance of the new course, and took turns speaking to course attendees during an open discussion.
One of Thomas’ seminars focused on current events and future plans for the Air Force, including topics like potential changes to uniforms, promotion processes and fitness assessments. He started his discussion off by explaining to the attendees how important it is to be aware of current events and discussions, and that when he was in their shoes, he felt as if he was always the last to know.
“How many of you are happy with what’s going on in the Air Force right now?” Thomas asked. A handful of people raised their hand, but part of the class remained motionless.
“How many of you are unhappy? How many of you are indifferent?” He questioned further. The rest of the class took turns raising their hands, which prompted Thomas to ask for details.
One class participant began to explain his admiration for the current Air Force Chief of Staff and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Gen. David L. Golfein and Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth O. Wright, noting how he thinks they serve as great role models through their successful communication and teamwork.
A different class participant contrasted the previous praise by expressing her frustration with what seems like an unfair balance between how single and married Airmen are treated.
Thomas absorbed the feedback and used it to steer his discussion with the course attendees, in which he provided a key motivational statement.
“What makes you a leader, or me a leader, is not what we wear on our shoulders,” Thomas explained. “It’s who we are as a person.”
The leaders who attended had positive feedback for the brand new course, and shared their thoughts on how it benefited them.
“I think this course was awesome for flight leaders and those stepping into that role,” said Master Sgt. Paiea Suganuma, fuels flight chief with the 319th Logistics Readiness Squadron. “It really gave us the tools to help reaffirm the things we do as leaders already.”
Senior Master Sgt. Cordell Roberson, TRICARE and patient administration flight chief with the 319th Medical Support Squadron, echoed his colleague’s statement.
“It’s a peek behind ‘the curtain,’” he explained, mentioning the information they received was more insightful compared to a typical professional development seminar.
The inside perspective provided to the leaders was purposefully developed, according to Master Sgt. Marquia Cantu, the career assistance advisor with the 319th Force Support Squadron.
“The class is designed to expose them to other leaders who can give participants information that will aid them in being more successful as a flight leader,” she explained. “Oftentimes, leaders are just placed in their positions without being exposed to any of the necessary information and are just expected to know.”
Cantu said the course hopefully provided a way for leaders to better prepare themselves for the roles they hold now and will assume in the future. The great part of the Flight Leader Course, she said, was that it’s entirely molded around the feedback and necessities of attendees.
Not only is developing leaders a priority to the 319 ABW leadership, but Air Force leaders all the way to the top.
Wright recently spoke at a senior noncommissioned officers call at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, stressing the importance of leadership when it comes to developing younger Airmen.
“In order to get ready for Airmen of any generation, these new Airmen and the Airmen of tomorrow, it’s incumbent upon us to maintain the skills necessary to be good supervisors, good mentors and great leaders to help these Airmen thrive and achieve the goals they set out,” Wright said. “These men and women joined the Air Force to be part of a team, and to be part of something greater than themselves. It’s our responsibility to help them realize that dream.”