Recently, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody introduced an initiative referred to as “development special duty” that will enhance how we currently develop our enlisted force. Commanders will nominate their best performers to serve in select special duty positions to ensure, as the chief states, “we have the right enlisted Airmen in the right special duties both inside and outside their primary career fields.”
As Airmen, we are the technical experts. This is a fact that has been proven throughout history from the incredible show of humanitarian assistance operations during the Berlin Airlift to the perilous, clandestine missions carried out by our special operation forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. For decades, senior leaders at all levels have continuously praised our execution of the Air Force mission. We do it with a level of dedication, excellence and commitment seen in no other organization because much of our career is spent polishing those skills required to perform in our respective specialties. Now the time has come to expand our vision from what we do at the tactical level to a broader, strategic focus. We have been challenged to key in on a specific yet critical concept that has enabled us to achieve and maintain our status as the world’s premiere fighting force developing Airmen.
As a former NCO Academy instructor, it quickly became apparent the level of influence professional military education has on our enlisted force. I enjoyed the privilege and responsibility of sharpening the leadership and management skills of future senior enlisted Airmen. Additionally, reinforcing our profession of arms and challenging middle managers to not only meet, but exceed, the Air Force’s physical fitness standards, made every waking day of that four-year tour one of the best decisions of my Air Force career.
In the past, many Airmen hesitated to volunteer for a special duty position based on concerns such as potentially long duty hours or fear of leaving the comfort zone of their primary Air Force specialty to learn a new discipline. Additionally, the rumor of delayed or slowed promotions seems to be the most prevalent of concerns across the spectrum.
Fortunately, those rumors have no merit. The knowledge and experience gained by serving in a special duty not only enhances your skills as a military professional, leader and manager but reaches beyond your career field to impact Airmen serving in specialties Air Force wide. Quickly earning the next stripe should never be the sole reason for or against a decision to serve in a special duty; Airmen who are truly dedicated and embody the core values of integrity, service and excellence will be rewarded both within that special duty and upon return to their career field.
In his closing commentary, Cody said, “a nomination to a developmental special duty is an honor — it expresses a commander’s confidence in an Airman. At the same time, it ensures our very best Airmen are in a position to deliberately develop our enlisted force and will return these Airmen to their career fields with greater experience under their belt.”
The time has come for us to step out of the shadows of our primary AFSCs to serve in those special duties such as enlisted professional military education instructor, military training instructor, Air Force recruiter, first sergeant or any other positions that are demanding our best and brightest. The call for nominations has been placed and leadership will be taking a hard look at those Airmen they feel will excel in these extremely competitive but rewarding positions.
This will sometimes be a very tough decision but if selected, will you be ready to answer that call?