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Airmen of character don't believe their own hype

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Turcotte, 314th Airlift Wing Command Chief

Chief Master Sgt. Richard Turcotte, 314th Airlift Wing Command Chief

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- As we gear up for our Senior Noncommissioned Officer Enhancement Seminar I'm excited for our recent master sergeant selectees. It seems so long ago that I too accepted the responsibility of a senior NCO --the excitement of a new set of stripes, the opportunity to assume more challenging and demanding roles, the opportunity to lead and influence others. I could go on and on about the vital roles of professional senior NCOs. However, none of them are as important as being an Airman of character.

I began to reflect on my senior NCO induction and even pulled my certificate off the wall and actually read it. I was somewhat surprised at what was written and how I felt about it. I couldn't make it past the second paragraph without some consternation. It states, "It is now required that you be the font of wisdom." I am here to tell you, looking back a decade, Master Sgt. Turcotte was far from being the font of wisdom. Even today, I still make mistakes and fall short of expectations I set for myself.

With curiosity I read on. In the next paragraph it states, "I have entered an elite and exclusive society." Nothing could be farther from the truth. We are neither elite nor exclusive. In fact, that is the most wonderful thing about our promotion system: anyone, from any background, race, creed, color or gender who meets Air Force standards and achieves a sufficient WAPS score can be a senior NCO. Our Air Force is inclusive, not exclusive. Our diversity is our biggest strength and the envy of the free world.

My certificate goes on to state, "You have mastered the techniques and abilities required of a Senior Noncommissioned Officer." That statement couldn't be farther from the truth as I would later find out through my own experiences, the Senior NCO Academy, and the Chief Leadership Course. Even in my current position as a command chief I have come to realize I only know what I know and that learning never stops. The point to take from this as senior NCOs is we have not arrived. We aren't at the finish line. Each and every one of us must continue to grow through our experience and commitment to personal and professional growth as leaders.

I would be remiss if I only pointed out what we aren't and not share what I believe to be some truths. We are Airmen of character. From the moment we entered the gateway to the Air Force we have been taught to live by a certain values system. That system, of course, is reflected in our Air Force Core Values of "Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do."

As Airmen, we are taught to trust sound leadership and become good followers. As NCO's we developed our technical expertise and our communication skills. As senior NCOs we are asked to develop the professional Airmen and leaders that will one day replace us while continuing our own professional development in order to support the mission.

So how do we do that?

The answer is simple: you are already doing it. The main reason for your promotion to master sergeant wasn't because you tested well but because you performed with excellence, you led with integrity and placed service before self. As each of you participate in next week's seminar I ask you reflect on some of the areas that enabled your success to this point and identify areas that foster additional growth. As leaders we must ensure the professional development of all Airmen and must be cautious of titles and rites of passage that detract from our role as professional Airmen.

But most of all, Airmen of character don't believe their own hype.