Commentary

November 8, 2013

PME – Building Air Force future

Capt. DAVID RAPER
56th Dental Squadron

Leadership is a trait that we all desire and strive to become better at no matter what level we are. Leadership knows no one specific career field or specialty. It is applicable across all aspects of life. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower said it best, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Eisenhower’s quote makes leadership sound so easy and simple but as we all know, it is much more complex. Leadership is the culmination of knowing your people, having a vision and having the drive to accomplish a specific mission. But where do we learn to become leaders? Is it from our parents, teachers, mentors, or coaches, or are we really just born with it?

No matter where we originally learn to become leaders we can always become better ones. The best way to become better at anything is practice. Therefore the best way to become a leader is to constantly place yourself in positions that cause you to make decisions, direct people and learn from more experienced leaders. This is the reason company grade officers are often placed in charge of projects and tasks in the Air Force.

As a CGO we are required to become subject matter experts in our tactical area. Yet as we climb higher in rank we are expected to become better leaders. In some career fields, as young officers we are able to lead a group of people and practice our leadership skills on a day-to-day basis. But other career fields don’t have the same opportunity to lead people day to day. This lack of experience can lead to some officers having much less experience when it comes to leadership. This is where professional military education comes into play.

PME for captains is Squadron Officer School. SOS is an eight-week course held at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. The school is definitely focused on leadership and the growth of our future leaders. This is accomplished by discussing core topics such as Air Force doctrine and history. Yet the school goes much deeper than just discussing these topics. It places each student in situations where they have to lead groups, become better followers and offer their ideas to solve complex group problems.
PME, such as in-residence SOS, creates multiple challenges that aid young Air Force officers to become better leaders. This is why the opportunity to attend PME as military members can’t be overlooked, and we must continue to fight to be able to attend these courses.

The Air Force is trying to make opportunity to attend SOS in-residence available to all line officers. If those officers are unable to attend in residence then a correspondence course is offered. This sounds great until you realize that many officers and future leaders are not line officers such as health professions officers.

Starting in fiscal 2013, headquarters Air Force Personnel Center and headquarters U.S. Air Force/Surgeon General 1 announced that they were selecting 182 health professions officers. This announcement was a great leap forward for medical professionals eager to gain more leadership skills and attend a top-level course with their line counterparts. After attending SOS in-residence, I have learned so much in regard to how the Air Force functions and the way decisions are made, not to mention meeting some great friends and making lasting memories.

As a health professions officer, I highly recommend all medical professions eligible to attend SOS in-residence apply for this great opportunity to enhance their leadership skills and gain the valuable insight on how the Air Force is run. SOS commandant Col. Mark Czelusta regularly reminded us that the Chief of Staff of the Air Force in 2040 could be walking the hallways of SOS today.




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