Learning opportunities abound in life, work

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- It's interesting to think throughout the nearly 25 years of my life, there's not been a time where learning was not a part of my day. From learning to say "mama," to taking my first steps, through school and into my Air Force career, I have not stopped learning.

It's safe to say everyone learns something every day. Whether we learn something interesting about a friend, a new skill at work or a sweet move on the basketball court, a human's ability to receive new information and comprehend the data is what makes us unique.

The Air Force, specifically, is a subject about which I will never stop learning. Every Airman has the opportunity for the same.

Even in my own career field, there are Air Force instructions that bring to light a subject shadowed in mystique until that one day when expertise in the subject is required. In three permanent changes of station, I've learned something new every time. I consistently gather interesting perspectives from my diverse group of co-workers.

It is in these realizations that I see the necessity of training and professional development. If there are so many things of which I'm unaware in the world outside the Air Force, then certainly there are things within it I am missing.

And so, I set out on a quest to discover how I can ensure I'm receiving all the information I can - to be the best NCO, the best supervisor, the best Airman I can be.

I arrived at a number of resources that would take ages to describe if I expounded upon each, so I'll share only a few.

The Air Force instruction. This is the simplest and most obvious of resources. I hear many complaints from way back when regulations used to clearly blockade the gray from a black and white question. While those complaints still exist, diving into an AFI can enlighten someone on a lesser-known aspect of the promotion system, evaluations, standards of uniform wear, or physical fitness requirements.

My Enlisted Development Plan. Reachable via the Air Force Portal, this is a web-based resource for Airmen to use as guidance and direction in progression from airman to chief master sergeant. It includes the time frame for which an Airman is required to complete training, the minimum times in service and grade for each grade, and other opportunities for advancement.

Lunch and Learn events. Organizations on the base to include the Airman and Family Readiness Center, Top 3, Incirlik 5/6, or the A.C.E. coordinate opportunities for mentoring moments during lunch. Topics for such events thus far included conducting feedback sessions, writing bullets for performance reports and decorations, and the important roles held by NCOs.

www.afmentor.com. This is an unofficial website, but it contains an abundance of information pertaining to the Air Force to include policy updates, tips for a successful career, calculators for promotion and promotion eligibility, pay charts and supervisory tools.

Mentors. Those people in your life, military or not, who guide you through life's lessons are priceless. There's a master sergeant in my life I know will always give me a swift kick in the bum when I need it, but also share her pride in me when I do well. This master sergeant ensures I'm prepared for all military life may throw at me, and she gives me feedback when she sees room for improvement in my actions. This person taught me how to better myself as a leader and supervisor, and is the only person I've known to give me a straight answer to even the most difficult questions. Having a good mentor, such an irreplaceable asset, is like finding buried treasure. In this respect, I've been lucky; and I hope the same for all Airmen.

Supervisors. I'm sure all Airmen get their share of both good and subpar supervisors. Regardless, the supervisor is also an instrumental figure. Airmen can learn just as well from the less-practiced supervisors as the most-proficient supervisors.

The resources are endless. How the resources are used is up to the individual. I challenge each Airman with a call to action - use the resources available to you to learn at least one new piece of information a day. All Airmen have the opportunity to excel. It's just a matter of making the effort.