NCOs: Heritage shaping our horizon

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Steven Goetsch
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affaris
As part of the Heritage to Horizons program, I had the good fortune to meet some incredible Airmen who are a walking historical record of our past 60 years as an independent service. These men are aces and Airmen warriors like Lt. Col. Harold Fischer, the Korean War's only double-ace, and Buzz Aldrin, who not only helped defend the Korean peninsula, but was a pioneering astronaut. 

I was even more fortunate to watch these heroes interact with our Airmen. The Airmen were awestruck. They were pinned to every word, every story of hardship, courage and victory. Some looked hypnotized as they listened to exciting stories of our fledgling service. 

On a daily basis it is difficult to keep to your Airmen that engaged. After all, most of us do not have exciting stories of battle and heroism. What we can offer them is a positive, professional example, and a consistent level of mentorship that should encompass their personal and professional lives. If you are sincere in this endeavor, they will look up to you and, more importantly, try to emulate you. It is by this emulation that we will form our Air Force horizon. 

When you get to work, one of your first thoughts should be, "What can I do for my Airmen today?" It is a rather simple question, but one that needs to be asked daily if we are going to provide our Airmen that consistent mentorship they need in today's Air Force. It can be as simple as making sure they have the right tool to do their job, or as complex as helping them understand where we are going as a service and that what they do every day makes an incredible difference in how we defend our nation. 

Being an Airman is becoming more and more of a challenge. When we task or even discipline our Airmen, we have to be cognizant of that. There can be an atmosphere of mission-saturation with budget cuts, force-shaping and increased operations tempo becoming a part of every Airman's day-to-day vocabulary. It forces us to rethink how we do business. Mentoring and developing our Airmen should be no exception. 

The minute an Airman thinks he is bothering you by asking for help, you have lost part of your effectiveness as a leader. Leaving an Airman behind not only applies to the battlefield, it also happens every time you miss a development opportunity. 

If we are going to continue to be the world's greatest air and space force, we need to take care of our subordinates, no matter how difficult that becomes. Not only is it the right thing to do, it will guarantee that we are raising the next line of supervisors and NCOs the way we learned through two Gulf Wars, the war in the Balkans and the Global War on Terror. We, in essence, become their heritage by passing on our knowledge and experience to them. 

Supervisors must realize that the needs of our Airmen increase with the amount of responsibilities we put on them. Sometimes they seem like they are a full time job, and the Air Force is asking you to not only be their supervisor, but also their mother, father, financial advisor and counselor. It's true that the Air Force expects a lot of its NCOs. That's because there is confidence in the training and experience today's Air Force NCO brings to the fight. 

Being in tune with an Airman isn't just a mandatory feedback session or when you fit can them into your calendar. Mentoring and supervising takes continual interaction that should never be looked at as a task, but an opportunity. It is an opportunity to leave a legacy, a heritage for our Airmen to follow and carry across the horizon. 

The great aircraft of our past 60 years are displayed proudly in museums and static displays around the world, but it is the confident Airmen warriors whom we have prepared that will lead us into the future.