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Becoming the next generation of frontline supervisors

Maj. Sean Robertson, 314th Aircraft Maitenance Squadron commander

Maj. Sean Robertson, 314th Aircraft Maitenance Squadron commander

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Last Thursday we celebrated a big event, the selection of the Air Force's newest Staff Sergeants. While the pay is nice and the extra stripe looks good on the uniform, there is one thing even more important. The latest selects will become the next generation of front line supervisors and Non-Commissioned Officers. For a commander this is a huge event...the Non-Commissioned Officer is where a majority of the critical tasks of a squadron get done. This is where primary training happens, discipline and personnel issues get nipped in the bud, and where the general tone of the squadron is set. For the next couple minutes, I would like to layout some big ticket items that I think are truly important to front line supervisors and ultimately the success of the mission and the squadron! Those items are know your people, hold the line, and PMA. 

First and foremost as a supervisor, you need to know your Airmen. This is critical, you are typically the first individual to see them when they get to work and generally, you are the last to see them as they step out for a long weekend. As a Commander you are my greatest asset, you are the one to look those Airmen in eye and make sure everything is OK. If not, you are the one that can push them in the right direction whether it be to the First Sergeant, Family Advocacy, or maybe just some" been there, done that" mentoring. Now when I say know your people I'm not talking about what their favorite color is or what their favorite band is (some of you may get there)...but more importantly, are they married, what do they like to do in their spare time, what does their home (dorm or house) look like, do they have kids, how are they doing in training, where and how did they grow up. These are the things that will drive people's hearts and minds, the better you understand these and they understand that you care about them as a person the more apt you are to connect and have an impact on that individual. How well you know and interact with your people will most definitely influence your effectiveness in the other two critical areas of being a Non-Commissioned Officer holding the line and PMA. 

As is any supervisor's duty, holding the line and maintaining the standards is one of the most important. This responsibility will most often fall on you first because you are typically the first to encounter the discrepancies or issues. You are also the most visible because you are almost always amongst Airmen. Whether you believe it or not they look up to you, if for no other reason than you were most recently sitting in their shoes. Maintaining standards such as passing your PFT, wearing the uniform correctly, doing things by the book is just beginning. Obviously, living up to the Air Force core values should not and is not anything new for our newest NCOs. However, holding individuals accountable may be one of the most difficult things you do...possibly because the person you are correcting today was your best-friend the week before. While maintaining the standards may sometimes be difficult it must be done (there must be a separation between duty and personal life)...As a NCO the responsibility falls on you to step in and ensure that you represent and maintain the standard you have sworn to uphold. If you know you're Airmen and fairly and consistently hold the line the last focus area is PMA. 

Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is contagious. As an athlete growing up PMA sounds a little bit chearleady to me (nothing against cheerleaders...I married one) but I can't think of any other words to describe it. PMA is defined by Wikipedia as "a state of mind that continues to seek, find and execute ways to win, or find a desirable outcome, regardless of the circumstances." I define it as that gut feeling and attitude of stepping on to the court, field, stage, flight line (you name it) and knowing that no matter what, you are going to come out on top. As a supervisor that is you're calling, to provide that confident air that we can get it done. It is this type of mentality that drives the words of our Air Force Creed "I will not falter, and I will not fail". As a supervisor your attitude, demeanor and how you react to different situations will drive how your airmen react. Be mindful that they are always watching whether you want them to or not. As a commander I need you to be the energy that drives the squadron. 

The daunting task of becoming a Non-commissioned officer may not appear as exciting as the pay raise and the new stripes first look but understand that this responsibility has been levied on you because you can do it. There is nothing more satisfying in this world than to teach the folks coming up behind you to replace you. To the newest frontline supervisors if you focus on your Airmen, Hold the line, and provide a Positive Mental Attitude, the journey will be a great one. Congrats to our newest Staff Sergeant s!!!