Learning my role

(U.S. Air Force photo by Robert Scott)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California — Time and time again I hear, “Everyone makes senior airman, and it’s no big deal.” If it wasn’t a big deal, something to be proud of or a stepping stone, why is there a rank in the first place?

I put on senior airman earlier this year and I can tell you I doubted whether making senior airman was a milestone. I would tell my wife, “It’s nothing really, when I make staff sergeant that will be an accomplishment.”

I carried that thought of it not being a big deal until talking with a chief master sergeant one morning. We were talking about life and family; he then asked when I promote. I proceeded to answer with, “not for another month, but it’s nothing. I will just be another senior airman.”

The conversation then shifted from casual to a mentor moment. The chief told me, “You’re not going to be just another senior airman. One day you will lead Airmen and they will adapt to your style of service. You’ll either be someone who gets by, or a leader who shows true dedication to their commitment to this country. Now is the time to start finding out who you are as a leader, what type of Air Force would you want to see in the future and what type of Air Force this country needs?”

From that moment he altered my perception. I no longer viewed myself as another senior airman, but an Airman on the cusp of leadership. During my short career, I constantly have been told to become a leader who makes a difference in every airman’s life you encounter. Of course I didn’t take it seriously. I blew it off and told myself I’m not at that point yet.

You really don’t understand until you realize that you will be a leader soon, and you’re in a position to begin preparing to be that leader.

Our conversation went on with him telling me I may not notice it but there will be Airmen watching my actions and looking up to me as their leader or mentor. I then began to think, have I done that? Is there an Airman that I leaned on for guidance?

The answer is yes. I never noticed how much I reached out to other Airmen, senior airmen, to educate me on their experiences. I can honestly say they haven’t steered me wrong; whether they give me guidance on how to live day by day in the military or how to progress in my Air Force career. I see the leader they are becoming and the leader I want to be.

It’s my turn now to display leadership values. Though I’m still learning, I know I’m not just another senior airman. I’m a leader, learning my role.