by Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
1/11/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- It
is a simple word to describe a powerful human trait or action; the
ability to influence or guide a group of people to complete an act
greater than themselves - leadership.
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Gambles is one familiar with leadership.
As a Professional Military Education instructor for the Yokota Airman
Leadership School, Gamble ensures the Air Force is stocked with reliable
NCOs who are responsible for tailoring young Airmen into future
The Airman Leadership School program is a six-week course Airmen must
accomplish if they are to assume the rank of staff sergeant. According
to Gambles, ALS molds Airmen into better leaders by giving them the
skills needed to be effective supervisors.
"My job as an instructor is to be a living extension of the ALS
curriculum that students are responsible to read," Gambles said. "That
is to say, if the students cannot grasp the material from the reading
alone, I apply different methods of presentation until the student can
Senior Airman Robert Tangen, 374th Medical Operations Squadron Allergy
and Immunizations technician and current ALS student, said Gambles has
an approachable and open teaching style while still commanding authority
as an instructor.
"If you do not understand something or you need clarification, (Gambles)
is good at breaking it down and making it understandable," Tangen said.
"You are not afraid to approach him and you never feel like you have a
"It really shows his professionalism overall, being approachable in that
manner," Tangen added. "Gambles shows you what type of person you would
want to be in a supervisory position."
Gambles said he ensures the students are able to fully understand and
apply lesson principles (on course exams), grade written and oral
assignments and execute a graduation ceremony in a distinct, formal
manner, but his personal goal as an instructor is to allow students to
see what they are capable of becoming: a great supervisor and leader.
"In-residence ALS is of the utmost importance because these members are
crossing into a new tier where they are going to be responsible for
supervising other Airmen," Gambles said. "This course really highlights
for them the weight of that responsibility while, at the same time,
equipping them to face that challenge."
Gambles said without this training, the majority of new NCOs fall into
one of the two extremes of the supervisory spectrum: being too strict or
being a buddy rather than a leader. According to Gambles, most new NCOs
feel like leadership, for them, is too far a destination to reach, but
by the time the students graduate, they are well informed of what they
need to do to carry the mantle of supervision.
The cirriculum taught includes one-on-one counseling, setting standards,
evaluating and providing feedback, methods of motivating and how to
produce quality written products. The program's curriculum exposes the
students to dozens of leadership philosophies and motivational theories,
techniques to manage time, stress, group dynamics, human diversity and
"What makes the learning experience 'complete' is that, in order to
succeed in the program, students must incorporate the 'new concepts' of
time, stress and conflict management," the instructor said. "They need
to actually be a better communicator, not only for briefings, but to
actually function as a team."
Gambles, who said he is in the best position since he began his Air
Force career, has instructed seven flights through the ALS program and
is currently working with his eighth. He said the highlight of his work
is witnessing the moment a student realizes their potential to be an
effective supervisor and becomes aware of the difference they can make
in a subordinate's life.
A conviction to do right by their Airmen is the most important ideal a
supervisor can maintain, according to Gambles. He said what drove him to
become an instructor was the lack of this conviction in many
"All across the service there are members with mediocre to poor
supervisors, and that was severely affecting how they in-turn would
supervise," Gambles said.
"After I graduated from the NCO Academy in December 2010, I realized I
had strength in public speaking," he added. "I felt I could use this
talent to help others and attempt to send a higher quality supervisor
back to the units."
Gambles does exactly that with every course he instructs, according to
Tangen, who said the ALS courses focuses on leading by example and
Gambles is able to be that example the students can look up to while
they are learning.
"We can look back and think 'he did it that way' and try to emulate that
style that he sets being an instructor, or basically a supervisor, for
this course," Tangen said.
Every class evolves into a team over the course, according to Gambles.
He said it is always great to witness service members "going from
conflicting with one another to building friendships that will last for
years. Also, the pride and unity that culminates between all of the
students, and us, the staff, on graduation night - that never gets old."