Professionalism main lesson at NCOA

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Mike Edwards
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs
“The times, they are a changin’.”
I’m sure most folks who have been in the Air Force for a couple of years have heard the term “re-blued”. It is a term people use when someone goes through some type of experience which makes them feel more patriotic and pro-Air Force – kind of like the feeling a basic trainee might feel on graduation day. 

When I was preparing to attend the NCO Academy a couple of months ago, I heard that term quite a bit. 

“You’re going to the Academy,” people would ask. “Get ready to get re-blued. That’s all they do there.” 

Granted, these well-intentioned individuals hadn’t attended the NCOA recently, and certainly hadn’t attended the Academy at Elmendorf, but they were still trying to help me get an idea of what to expect. 

So what was it like at the NCOA? It was nothing like what I had expected or what I had heard – it was much better. 

From the first day of class, I knew this was going to be a different experience than what my peers may have had. 

True, there are papers to write and speeches to present, but one common theme seemed to tie it all together – professionalism. 

The NCOA, like the Air Force, is changing to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs. Rather than focus on making people eat, sleep and bleed blue, the focus was more to develop a professional NCO corps. 

Right now, we have more enlisted people with college degrees than at any time in our history. 

The Airmen, NCO and Senior NCO corps are more educated and have more responsibilities than ever before; and today’s Professional Military Education is reflecting this in the way lessons are taught. 

Gone are the days of sitting through countless hours of lecture. Now, lessons are taught through guided discussions which draw on the knowledge and expertise of everyone in the classroom. 

The idea of attending PME “because it is required” no longer has much bearing. The focus now is developing better leaders through professional development. We are a professional force and we train and educate ourselves as such. 

It’s no secret; our Air Force is getting even smaller. We are going to have to rely on each other even more than before if we want to remain the world’s dominant air power. To do this we need to take care of each other and that is a second theme that seemed to dominate my experience at the NCOA. 

“Take care of your troops and they’ll take care of you.” How many times have we heard people say that? How many times have you said it? What exactly does that phrase mean? 

To me, taking care of your troops goes beyond just asking how everything is going. It also includes getting actively involved in people’s lives. You know … mentorship.
Rather than pencil-whipping training records, supervisors need to take the time to ensure their folks can not only perform a given task, but also make sure that person knows the “whys” behind it. 

Instead of asking if they are doing o.k. financially, supervisors need to go that extra step. Have your troops explain their financial plan and budget to you. If they can’t or don’t have one, help them get one set up. The Military and Family Readiness Center is an excellent resource for this. 

Rather than asking “Are you going to stay in or get out?” ask them what their career or life aspirations are and work to help make their goals and dreams a reality. 

By taking a few extra minutes to really get actively involved in their lives, you will make a positive impact that not only benefits the Air Force right now, but will continue to benefit the Air Force long after you retire. 

This is all a part of professionalism and taking care of your people – concepts I learned while attending PME. 

True, I had a great class, great instructors and learned quite a bit, but I don’t think my experiences here will be considered unique anymore. The NCO Academy is changing, as is the Air Force to meet today’s and tomorrow’s needs.
So did I feel “re-blued?” 

No. I felt like and was treated as a professional. I came away with a better understanding of my roles and responsibilities. 

I no longer feel like “just an NCO,” but more like a professional Airman.