Jr. Enlisted Airman's panel; talking communication with master sergeant selects

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- As a senior airman it's rare to have an opportunity to help guide future senior leaders on the needs of young Airmen. Recently, I had the privilege of doing just that during a senior non-commissioned officer professional enhancement course held here at Incirlik Air Base.

It was a little unsettling to walk into a room with nearly 30 master sergeant selects and newly promoted master sergeants watching you. Three other Airmen and I sat down to face these new leaders and began an hour-long discussion about leadership.

The purpose of having an Airman's panel was to remind these new SNCOs of the Airman's perspective. During the panel we told the students what our expectations were from them as leaders and gave them examples of some of the successes and failures of SNCOs we had known.

We discussed many topics during the panel, but one thing presented itself as a reoccurring theme: communication.

As Airmen we can sometimes get so caught up in the idea that we have to use our chain of command that we can become reluctant to talk directly to our senior leadership. We encouraged them to not let their new rank shackle them behind a desk and to still get out and speak with their Airmen and make an effort to keep them in the loop. In return, they asked us to remember that while using the chain of command is important, they are here to help us and we should never feel like we cannot turn to them for help.

Towards the end of the class we also exchanged advice.

The piece of advice that was given to us that stuck with me the most was not to avoid or pass over an opportunity just because I didn't feel like I was ready for it. The SNCO who gave the advice explained that at every level there will be people who are there to mentor you and help lift you up to the level you need to be. If you are being presented an opportunity to be a better leader or improve yourself as an Airman, it is because the Air Force - and your leadership - believes that you can do and will help you along the way.

In turn, I suggested that when they found themselves in a position of leadership, such as a being the superintendent of their shop or section, that they take the time to hold meetings with each separate rank tier followed by a meeting with the entire section. I have had a superintendent who did this and it resulted in a great improvement of morale in the shop because the Airmen finally felt like they were being heard and had the power to make improvements in the office.

Being on this panel was a unique experience that personally helped provide me with some insights into the challenges of being a SNCO. Similarly, I hope that some of the advice and comments we provided will help these new master sergeant's become the kind of leaders we would like to work for and some of us may become.