JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
Does more stripes equate to more influence?
For about 20 U.S. and international junior enlisted members, these questions and many more were answered during the first U.S.-led Pacific Rim Junior Enlisted Leadership Forum held here Aug. 8 through 12.
During the five-day conference, Airmen and a Soldier from the U.S., and junior enlisted airmen from Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, Maldives, Mongolia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore participated in discussions that allowed participants to share their experiences in leadership and learn more effective ways to lead in their organizations.
The conference also included team building activities, guided lessons and senior leader briefings and panels. The activities incorporated some of the principles familiar to those who have completed one or several levels of Air Force Professional Military Education.
"The professional development of our junior enlisted Airmen and Soldiers is important and in this forum they are provided with valuable information and tools, with the focus being on international leadership development to further their growth as tomorrow's senior enlisted leaders," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Buddy Hutchison, Pacific Air Forces command chief.
Hand-picked by their leadership, the multinational participants were able to bring their knowledge and experiences to the conference which enabled them to further strengthen alliances and partnerships in the Pacific.
"Diversity is so important in our militaries today," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Horn, Air University command chief and senior enlisted host of the conference. "Joint integration of our international militaries does not happen often enough, or early enough in any given service member's career, so this forum provides a great opportunity for them to gain some leadership tools, to see the bigger picture and to understand how they fit in.”
Attendees discussed leadership with a variety of speakers including U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Craig Wills., the PACAF Strategy, Plans, and Programs director, who was able to share his leadership experiences from an officer’s perspective.
"Generals are not the most important people in an organization; they are the most visible, and often get the glory, but the real strength of our Air Force is our NCO's and Airmen,” Wills said. “Our front-line supervisors are the most important part of our Air Force. They make the mission happen; they train our Airmen; and they take care of our families. Without great junior NCO's, we won't have an Air Force."
Video portions of the conference advised the attendees to be actively involved with their people and to focus less on how many stripes they have and more on being as effective as they can with their stripes.
Philippine Air Force Sgt. Bernard Magpantay, Promotion Branch NCO in charge, put these leadership tips in to perspective for his peers.
“As an NCO, I understand that it is no longer about me,” he said. “My job now is to prepare those below me, so they are prepared to take my place in the future.”
Horn hosted this iteration of the JELF along with Warrant Officer of the Royal New Zealand Air Force Mark Harwood, who will be hosting the next JELF which will be in New Zealand.