Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lankford's tradition continues at Air Guard's enlisted academies

by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
I.G. Brown Training and Education Center

2/27/2013 - MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. -- Airmen should know and remember the founder of the Air National Guard's center for enlisted leadership, said the top enlisted leader of the Paul H. Lankford Professional Military Education Center here Tuesday to its incoming class.

Chief Master Sgt. Paul H. Lankford was a survivor of the Bataan Death March in the Philippine Islands and in a Japanese prison camp for three years who went on to help stand up the Air National Guard's premiere school for enlisted leadership.

"It's from the heart and from my good friend and mentor that I'd like to welcome you to his school, where we try to carry on that same tradition," said Chief Master Sgt. Donald E. Felch to 268 Air Force technical sergeants and international students.

The sergeants began Noncommissioned Officer Academy Feb. 26 in hopes of becoming senior enlisted Airmen. The course is a requirement for their promotion to the rank of Master Sergeant.

Named after Lankford in December 2008, the Center delivers both NCOA and Airman Leadership School and is part of the Air Guard's larger Training and Education Center here. The TEC has provided professional development for tens of thousands of Airmen.

"You are going to be a part of that tradition," said Felch.

Lankford served as commandant from 1968 to 1981. He passed away in 1989 at the age of 89 with more than 42 years of service in the active duty Air Force and Air Guard.

His accomplishments and service are also a parting lesson through the Paul H. Lankford Commandant Award.

It's awarded to the student who "makes the significant contribution to the overall success of each class by demonstrating superior leadership abilities and excellent skills as a team member."
This year, the Center will graduate more than 2,000 Total Force students. Petty officers from Canada are counted in with more international students planned.

Students attend either the six-week in-residence course here or a 14-week interactive satellite course from their home base with a shortened campus attendance.

"I believe we have the best of the best when it comes to NCO Academy and ALS, to include satellite," said Lamar A. Anderson, superintendent for NCOA. "The instructors take a lot of pride in what they do, and they put a lot of effort into the learning of each individual."

Anderson also welcomed the incoming class and introduced them to their 17 instructors, who guided them through a busy first day.

"It's one of the best jobs to do, and it's an honor to be able to continue Chief Lankford's mission of developing enlisted leaders," said Anderson. "Whether it's from our students or our instructors, we all learn something here every day."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Resiliency part 3: United we stand - Divided we fall

by Staff Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

2/13/2013 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla -- Part 3 of 4

There are roughly 7 billion people in the world, 314 million in the United States, and more than 329,000 in our U.S. Air Force.

With so many people working and living in proximity to one another, it goes without saying that social resilience is an essential element of healthy functioning.

From the dawn of mankind, our adaptive human nature and ability to interact socially have transformed us into diversely unique individuals, further solidifying our ability to adjust to changing group dynamics.

As we know, wolves hunt in packs and lions in groups. By doing so they are able to bring down prey that would have been nearly impossible to conquer independently. Us as humans tend to adopt a similar concept, yet, one of a more evolved nature.

Although working in teams is common, often times we interact with others only when the situation dictates, isolating others when they are not needed. This type of thinking is passive-destructive and only hinders our ability to fully function in society.

Ideally, a socially resilient culture would be comprised of people whose expertise and backgrounds are vastly diverse.

Take sports for example; how successful would a baseball team be if their line-up consisted of only pitchers? Lackluster to say the least, you need dissimilar specialties.

John Cacioppo, director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience and author of Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, found that "Socially resilient individuals value diverse perspectives and recognize that many tasks require coordination among persons with differing backgrounds, values, and priorities."

In layman's terms, get out there, meet people, enjoy cultural differences, and share experiences. You will become more well-rounded and proficient in your daily endeavors.

We are truly blessed to be Americans and because of the freedoms bestowed, we have the privilege of living among so many different ethnicities, religions, backgrounds and interests.

Those who embrace social interaction and recognize the advantages of groups made up of diverse individuals often respond more adaptively to unforeseen problems and challenges, making daily tasks easier to accomplish.

Like the other three pillars of wellness, social resiliency starts with you!

"Social resiliency cannot be encapsulated into a simple, do this, do that mentality," notes U.S. Air Force Capt. Jeremy Pallas, licensed clinical social worker at MacDill Air Force Base. "However, by intentionally engaging in altruistic or pleasurable social activities, you will discover the benefits of getting out of the house and growing from those around you."

One of the best ways of accomplishing this and to ease your way into a more interactive lifestyle is by joining groups, such as sports teams, cooking classes or crafting groups.

Subconsciously, by joining these pleasurable groups you are targeting your psychological well-being, releasing endorphins and increasing serotonin levels, which positively balance your mood.

Have you ever heard of the saying, "too much of a good thing can be a bad thing?" Well, that can definitely be the case with social resiliency.

We have all worked with "that guy," whose such a flamboyant extravert that nobody wants to be around him.

Smothering people through too much social interaction can be abrasive and deter them from wanting to be around you. Be sure not to overdo it.

Likewise, if you avoid interaction and confrontation, this too will likely discourage people from interacting with you.

No matter what level your social resilience is on, there is always room for improvement or preventative maintenance. Even if you think your resiliency is top notch, do not hesitate to call your local helping agencies for a brief refresher.

Remember, the folks at your mental health office, family advocacy, base chapel, Health and Wellness Center and Airman & Family Readiness Center are available to get you active, boost your confidence and bolster your personal resiliency.

Information from the U.S. Air Force resiliency program, the Mayo Foundation for Education and Medical Research, and the American Psychological Association was used as source material for this article.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Girls run to break the 'mold'

by Senior Airman Katrina M. Brisbin
22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

2/15/2013 - MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- A new nationwide program to help develop, maintain and foster confidence of young girls kicks off at McConnell AFB Feb. 26, 2013, at the Youth Center.

Girls on the Run a is youth development program which combines an interactive curriculum centered around running to help inspire self-respect and healthy lifestyles in pre-teen girls. The core curriculum addresses several aspects of young girls' development including their physical, emotional, mental and social well-being.

"We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running," said 1st Lt. Aisha Locket, 22nd Force Support Squadron sustainment flight commander and GOTR site liaison.

The program for third to fifth grade girls includes running workouts and games that teach life skills and prepares participants for a 5K run and walk event.

A three-part curriculum is taught by certified GOTR coaches and includes topics including understanding ourselves, valuing teamwork and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large.

The first eight lessons are centered on the girls getting to know themselves by examining their values, their likes and dislikes and who they envision themselves to be. The next section concentrates on team building, being supportive and learning to listen and cooperate. The final section relates to the world at large, which includes making a contribution to the local community and learning to recognize and deal with the negative messages often received from the world.

"This program helps young girls break free from that box by building their confidence and recognizing that each girl is a unique and special individual who doesn't have to be like anyone else," said 2nd Lt. Paulina Rudolph, 22nd FSS Airman and Family Services deputy flight commander and GOTR secondary site liaison. "It allows the girls to shatter stereotypes at an early age and develop a strong sense of self and accomplishment through running."

At the end of the ten week, program participants will join the rest of Sedgwick County to participate in a 5K run.

"Girls on the Run is a lot more than a running program," said Molly Barker, GOTR founder. "I believe it will lead to an entire generation of girls living peacefully and happily outside of the girl box."

Additional information is available at girlsontherunks.org.

POW recalls 'hidden treasure' in lessons learned

by Amber Baillie
Academy Spirit staff writer

2/25/2013 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo.(AFNS) -- A prisoner of war held in the "Hanoi Hilton" for five and a half years shared his compelling story of imprisonment and success with U.S. Air  cadets Feb. 21-22 during the 2013 National Character and Leadership Symposium here.

Like Sen. John McCain and others, retired Col. Lee Ellis was held captive after his plane was shot down Nov. 7, 1967.

Ellis spoke to the NCLS crowd just one month shy of the 40th anniversary of his March 14, 1973 release from the infamous prison on the leadership lessons he learned during his confinement.

"The story is so powerful, it doesn't matter whether you're a cadet, four-star general, CEO or grandmother," Ellis said. "Courage was the most outstanding quality during that experience, put together with character and authentic leadership."

The 14 lessons, featured in Ellis' book "Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton," include knowing yourself; being authentic; guarding your character; confronting your doubts and fears; and staying positive, Ellis said.

"Until you know what your strengths, struggles, passions and purpose are, it's hard to have the confidence to actually have courage, because you might be worried somebody will see the real you," Ellis said.

Ellis's personal definition of courage is "leading into the pain of your fears to do what you know is right," he said.

"I've coached CEOs who didn't want to give positive feedback because they said they felt uncomfortable, when really it was their fear of looking stupid, hokey or being too soft," Ellis said, who coaches Fortune 500 senior executives. "I've also coached people on how to fire somebody because they didn't have the courage to do it. It's not just about courage under fire but courage in your day-to-day leadership."

As an Air Force officer, Ellis ran an ROTC program and served as vice commandant of Maxwell Air Force Base's Squadron Officer School.

"Most of my last 20 years has been dedicated to helping people and developing leaders," he said.

Ellis entered the Air Force in 1965 after receiving his commission from the University of Georgia's ROTC program as a distinguished graduate. Ellis then attended flight school and F-4 Phantom combat crew training with Capt. Lance Sijan.

"In Vietnam, we weren't 18-year-old kids," Ellis said. "I had been through ROTC, flight school, combat crew training and had already flown 53 combat missions. We were pretty seasoned warriors, and had a real commitment to follow the code of conduct and be a good soldier."

Faith in God, the U.S. and his fellow Airmen brought him hope amidst continual torture and seclusion in North Vietnam, he said.

"Even though we were isolated, we still had covert communication and camaraderie," Ellis said. "We were in it together and it was us against them.

"Pilots often like to think they're in control, even when they're not," Ellis said. "We were mostly pilots and aircrew who believed that someday we were going to leave," Ellis said. "I personally believed that when they didn't kill me, and I made it through my ejection and capture, that God had a purpose in my life and I was going to somehow walk out of there someday."

Despite the hardship, there was a hidden treasure to be found among the trials of being a POW, as the experience gave many who survived the experience the strength of character to overcome difficulties and achieve success.

"There are 16 admirals and generals that came out of the POW camps," Ellis said. "Out of 400 to 500 people, there have been two U.S. senators, one of them a nominee for president, a number of congressmen, CEOs and two or three presidents of universities after the experience. I think we all, in a way, never want to do it again, but benefited from the hardships we had there. We learned lessons that have stood us well throughout the years."

Among his other awards, Ellis is the recipient of two Silver Star Medals, the Legion of Merit Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart Medal and the POW Medal.

My daughter - my hero: A resiliency success story

Commentary by Maj. Michelle Suberly
Air Force Global Strike Command Office of the Staff Judge Advocate

2/25/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- As we recognize American Heart Month this February, I am struck by the thought that heroes and role models don't have to be older than we are. I need only look to my 12-year-old daughter Renae. When Renae was a few hours old, she started turning blue. Within a few hours she was diagnosed with a rare congenital heart defect - Ebstein's Anomaly. Amazingly, she was home after only one week with no medications, monitors or oxygen.

At 13 weeks of age, her heart rate jumped to almost 300 beats per minute in an abnormal pattern, an arrhythmia common with her heart defect. Over the course of the last 12 years she has been on medications to control her heart rate, aspirin to prevent strokes, surgical procedures to eliminate the heart rate issues, and had her valve surgically repaired. Through it all, she has become a high achieving student and competitive gymnast, which would have seemed impossible, even to her doctors.

While this has been a life-long issue for Renae, the last year and a half has truly inspired me. In October 2011, Renae had her third surgery to try to eliminate the rhythm issue. When we returned for her follow up a month later, she was in the abnormal rhythm, but it was at such a low rate, we didn't notice. Once again the surgery didn't work.

Renae was frustrated with yet another hospital stay and return to medication. Then she started talking to other kids in the hospital playroom, including one who had been in the hospital for several weeks and expected to be there several more. With that perspective, her attitude quickly perked up. In January 2012, Renae had her fourth surgery to eliminate the heart rhythm issue (so far successful). She competed in a gymnastics meet the very next week. Everything was falling into place.

Then, in February 2012, she fell off the high bar during practice and fractured both bones in her lower right arm. While most kids would have moped around, she was back at the gym two days later doing leg lifts, sit-ups, anything she could do to keep the rest of her body in shape. She even learned how to do one-handed back handsprings with her non-dominant left hand. Seven weeks later, the cast came off, but she still was not allowed to do a full practice. When Renae was finally cleared for practice, she had only one practice left before scheduled open heart surgery. She gave it her all during that practice.

As we approached the day of her open-heart surgery, I was a nervous wreck. Her heart defect is so rare, very few surgeons will even touch it. The doctor was going to have to rebuild her valve and move it two inches higher, where it should have been in the first place. Renae wasn't worried at all; she trusted that God would protect and heal her. She was at peace, and way stronger than the rest of her family.

Her attitude and strength from gymnastics paid off as she was ready to leave the ICU a day earlier than expected -- they had to scramble to get a room ready on the regular floor. She had surgery on a Thursday and was home Tuesday, and was forced to take ibuprofen to control inflammation even though she wasn't in pain. Six weeks later, she was off all medications and back in the gym. Within a few weeks she regained every skill she had before the broken arm four months earlier.

On Feb. 9, 2013, Renae competed in our home gymnastics meet and won first place in the vault, uneven bars and all-around in her age group for Level 5 (levels go 1-10). She was shocked and the look on her face was priceless. A week later, she did it again in a meet in Arkansas, and with her sisters Jessica and Elizabeth, led her team to a first-place finish.

Renae has overcome so many challenges in her short life. When she won at those meets, it was a victory over those challenges and a victory over her heart defect. Her love of life, her fighter spirit and her faith keep her from staying sad or giving up. I only have to look at my miracle daughter and realize that I can overcome any setback and do the things that others tell me are impossible. She is the model of resiliency. She is my hero.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chairman’s Enlisted Advisor Inspires Army Junior ROTC Cadets

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 22, 2013 – Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spent this morning talking to Junior ROTC cadets here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, center, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to Army Junior ROTC cadets at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., Feb. 22, 2013. DOD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The sergeant major spoke to students in the Army Junior ROTC program at T.C. Williams High School, known for marching in President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration parade and for the film “Remember the Titans,” based on the 1971 merger of the city's three public high schools.

Battaglia told the cadets that he and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, got the idea for today’s visit when they used the school's football stadium recently to film a Super Bowl message to be broadcast to service members overseas. He commented on the Junior ROTC Cadet Creed that is on display at the school.

“If you follow that as gospel, it tells me that you are living by standards and rules for yourself and have some goals or objectives for yourself,” the sergeant major told the cadets. “And it also shows me teamwork.”

Using a PowerPoint presentation, Battaglia showed the cadets the U.S. military's oath of enlistment.
“We, in the military, have oaths and creeds as well,” he said. “This is our oath. We all take it. I took that oath 33 years ago.”

Battaglia noted that the cadet creed and the enlistment oath have common denominators. “We all live by an oath, by a creed, and things that guide us along the way,” he said. “That's pretty amazing.” All 2.3 million troops and their families live by the same oath, he added.

“I hope that as you may have memorized it and know it by heart, it means more than just being able to say it by memory,” Battaglia said.

“There's a whole lot of substance in there, and it's really important for you to understand, as it is for us -- because what that means to us … is that I'm willing to give my life for the protection of you. That's pretty serious, isn't it?”

The sergeant major said when he reflects on what the oath of enlistment means, it's “a whole lot more than just a paragraph of words.”

“So I really hope that you can comprehend your creed … as establishing a standard and value for you to get better and grow into being contributors,” Battaglia said. “Whether it's just contributing to your neighborhood or the whole city, youth are the next leaders of our nation.”

No other job requires the oath service members take, the sergeant major said. “It's a serious profession that you join, and you're starting to [build] that footprint right now,” he told the cadets. “I'm happy to see and hear that, because you are the future of our nation.”

Battaglia said he believes JROTC is a “great stepping stone” to continued success in life.

“Regardless of whether the armed forces is your choice, you're going to have to survive in life,” he said. “There are so many options and opportunities out there for you.”

The sergeant major said he has tried to follow two “golden” rules throughout his life: to do his job to the best of his ability, and to follow orders.

“I found that those two golden rules allowed me to stay out of trouble … and avoid temptation when that came about,” he said.

Following his remarks and a recital of the Junior ROTC Cadet Creed by one cadet, the group asked the sergeant major questions about his military career, including his 25 ribbons. Battaglia said seeking recognition and awards is not important, because they will come with hard work and commitment.

“The thing that I probably learned [most] in the infantry is teamwork,” he said. “You just can't do it alone -- there's no way. And that's not just fighting for your nation. That's doing anything. You just don't want to do it by yourself. It's all about teamwork.”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

USAF senior NCOs participate in USMC academy

by Airman 1st Class Hailey Davis
18th Wing Public Affairs

2/20/2013 - KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Thirty-three U.S. Airmen and Marines are attending a joint staff and senior NCO academy on Camp Hansen, Japan.

The Staff NCO Academy Advanced Course is an eight-week course where Air Force master sergeants and Marine Corps gunnery sergeants learn various styles of leadership and communication, and participate in physical training.

Class 2-13 graduates Feb. 27.

"The curriculum here is physical-training (intensive)," said Master Sgt. Mark James, a student at the Staff NCO Academy and Erwin Professional Military Education Airman Leadership School commandant. "It (also) covers most of what Air Force PME covers, such as communications, writing training documents, giving briefs and speeches, and evaluating commander philosophy and intent."

James also explained how challenges that Marine Corps and Air Force leadership faces as staff or senior NCOs are the same, as are communication and first-line supervision.

"We're not alone," James said. "Every unit faces challenges and requires first-line supervision to step up and that's one thing they've honed in on here is the importance of first-line supervision."

Communication plays a huge role when participating in a joint combat community, which is why this aspect of the course so important.

"No matter where we're at around the globe, we rely heavily on the Air Force," said Gunnery Sgt. Marcus Reese, Staff NCO Academy faculty advisor. "We bring (Airmen) in and see how they work so that when we go forward into the area of operations, we've already established that communication."

Not only does the course stress communication and supervision, it also incorporates physical training into the curriculum.

"We start off with physical training throughout the course, and build into the war-fighting package," Reese said. "They go out and conduct some combat task-oriented physical training such as the obstacle course. The log wall and rope climb tests their stamina and endurance."

Reese also said the students participate in a squad competition where they complete a medical evacuation stretcher run. Airmen and Marines carry a "casualty" and gear they would have in the field. During this run, they run 1.8 miles up a hill and back to the schoolhouse as part of a team-building exercise.

"You'd be amazed at how much you push yourself and push your body when you know your team is relying on you," James said.

A thank you to a great leader

Commentary by 1st Lt. James Anderson
386th Expeditionary Medical Group

2/21/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) --  In 2003, I crossed trained from security forces to become a medical technician. I had just completed technical school and clinical rotations and as soon as I returned to my reserve unit, I was informed to prepare for a one-year activation of our medical unit. The Iraq ground war was in full effect and a large number of Soldiers, Marines and Airmen were routinely being aeromedically evacuated from contingency operations in the area of responsibility to Germany and then on to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., for more definitive care in the multiservice area.

We quickly mobilized to accept patients and took over the base gym as our contingency areomedical staging facility. I was unsure of myself and my skill set because I was so "wet behind the ears". I was constantly running around with my head cut off trying to do a hundred million things and not accomplishing a single task. Capt. Vogan, who was one of our experienced nurses, stopped me and asked what I was doing. He could tell I was frustrated and tired. He immediately began to show me a better way of accomplishing and prioritizing tasks.

He was busier than most of us, but still had the time to graciously mentor me due to my inexperience. Vogan reinforced things I had already learned in technical school and taught me new things. We were constantly inundated with injured and sick patients, but not once did he complain. He would always find me during our chaotic day and walked me through the treatment of burn, psychological and orthopedic patients. My confidence was strengthened tremendously. Then, I was able to step up and assume a bigger role in our aeromedical evacuation mission and direct patient care. I even occasionally assumed the role of lead medical technician on incoming and outgoing aeromedical evacuation missions.

Throughout our reserve activation, Vogan would often take time just to talk. These talks would expand my Air Force and medical knowledge base. We were undermanned and tired a majority of the time, but he continued to stay positive and concentrate on the patients who deserved the best care we could give them. My attitude was dramatically changed. The troops coming back were exhausted, tired and in pain. The patients usually were evacuated quickly through the system and regularly had minimal personal gear and clothing with them.

My personal troubles seemed so trivial. Vogan taught me how to look at the big picture and greater good. I have developed a certain philosophy and motto through his tutelage. My sense of accomplishment is not based what I have achieved through promotions and personal recognition, but instead it is based on the servant leadership I learned from Vogan. I ask myself , how I can help those I lead through my actions and genuine concern for their welfare?

Vogan went on to become a JROTC instructor in West Virginia before his retirement. His leadership instilled a higher calling and devotion to duty in me. This allowed me to better myself and to pass along the lessons that I have learned. I'm now a commissioned officer and nurse due to his airmanship. Thanks Maj. Vogan....

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lazyman inspires participants to overcome obstacles

by Scott Prater
Schriever Sentinel

2/14/2013 - SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.  -- Adapt and adjust.

Tech. Sgt. Tawanna Sellars has heard those words uttered countless times during her Air Force career.

When Lt. Col. Robb Owens stepped into the 50th Space Wing Safety office a couple of weeks ago and announced he had signed every active-duty member of the office up for Schriever's Lazyman Triathlon, Sellars recognized an opportunity to put the words into practice.

"I was excited at first, then I learned I was going to have to swim 2.4 miles," she said. "Before I even got the words, 'I can't swim' out of my mouth, I knew I was facing an adapt-and-adjust scenario."

The Lazyman Triathlon is Schriever's February sporting event and is organized by the Schriever fitness center staff. Participants are tasked with completing an entire Ironman triathlon, consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 26.2-mile run and a 112-mile bike ride. They have the entire month of February to complete the event, hence the term, lazy.

Sellars said Owens was adamant about 50 SW safety office participation and he isn't one who readily accepts excuses or tolerates complaining.

She began developing her plan right then.

"I bought some goggles and rented a life vest that very day," she said. "But I knew I still had a problem. I knew my fear of the water was still there."

She remembers her first swimming encounter with perfect clarity. More than 20 years ago, she went to a pool with friends. Full of bravado, she climbed up on the diving board, and despite never having learned to swim, jumped off into the deep end.

"The lifeguards had to come and save me," she said. "I was 13 years old and needless to say, I never went near another swimming pool."

Until last week, that is when she used a foam noodle and a kick board to keep her self afloat at the Tierra Vista Community Center swimming pool.

That experience was one she won't soon forget either.

"I forgot to bring my life vest, so I had to borrow one of the pool's flotation noodles," said Sellars, who spent the next 90 minutes struggling through 12 agonizing laps. "I looked around and saw everyone working their tails off...but nobody was working nearly as hard as me."

Exhausted and overwhelmed, Sellars needed a couple of days to recover, but it was then that her friends and coworkers intervened.

Capt. Julie Ray witnessed the scene at the pool and advised Sellars on better form. Another coworker brought in a pair of flippers, thinking they may help her get some more production out of her kicks. The life vest worked wonders too.

"That second trip to the pool was a whole lot different," Sellars said. "I still had to keep my head out of the water, but my form was way better and I could tell right away that I was actually moving in the water. I think I did 20 laps in that same 90 minutes."

It didn't take long for word of Sellars' efforts to reach Schriever Fitness and Sports Director Seth Cannello. As director of the lazyman event, Cannello is often asked by potential participants if they could substitute other exercises for their lazyman events.

"I've had people ask if they could use the elliptical machine instead of running and things like that, but we try to keep the events as close to real Ironman triathlons as possible," he said. "Sellars wouldn't be allowed to use fins in a real triathlon, but she is swimming. I don't have a problem with that. We try to encourage people to participate."

Oddly enough, participation in this year's event has ballooned beyond anyone's expectations.

"The old record was 125, but this year, 262 people signed up," Cannello said. "We're unsure exactly why, but I'm told we marketed the event earlier this year. People started challenging each other and unit leaders encouraged their folks to take part."

Sellars is well into her second week of the lazyman and has been running with her office mates and cycling on a stationary bike at the fitness center.

"I'm on pace for the most part and it's helpful that my coworkers are doing the lazyman along with me," she said. "I'm actually hoping to finish by Feb. 25 because I'll be testing for promotion in March and need some time to prepare for that."

Owens explained that he challenged his office in part to help build camaraderie within the unit.

"They've responded positively and it's been awesome to see each of them lay out a plan to complete the event and come up with ways to overcome obstacles - even not knowing how to swim," he said. "I think it's important to break up the cycle of training every six months to a year for recurring fitness tests. This kind of thing really helps keep folks engaged and fit year round."

Time is of the essence for Sellars now, but she plans to take swim lessons once her schedule lightens up.

"Come March 1," Cannello said. "I'm guessing she might not need them."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mental resiliency: recognize, respond

by Staff Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

2/11/2013 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Would it be surprising to find out that enlisted military personnel took the top spot for having the most stressful job in America in 2013? Well, don't be surprised, as holding the dubious distinction is not unusual.

According to an annual report published by a prominent internet job site, enlisted military members are at the top when it comes to stress, nearly maxing each of the 11 stress factors used to determine the ranking. Those factors included areas such as hazards, travel, physical demands, competitiveness, and risk to one's own life or to others.'

Although this may seem shocking, the fact isn't anything new; military personnel have been given this distinction for years. What is new are the ways to counteract the mental and emotional strains from such a demanding lifestyle.

It all boils down to this, if one's mental resiliency is lackluster or unstable, daily stressors will take hold of their life.

By lacking resilience, you will more than likely succumb to the mental pitfalls that keep you at risk. Those pitfalls can cause you to have a pessimistic perspective, see problems as one-sided, feel victimized, and choose unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drug abuse.

Eventually, no matter one's rank or reputation, everyone experiences the ebbs and flows of life and will need help getting through them.

Two of the most important skills being taught in Department of Defense resiliency programs are personal preparation and recognition techniques.

The ability to recognize "thinking traps" so that the proper measures can be taken to head off negative or harmful reactions, ensures readiness, an important element of mental fitness.

Tunnel vision, jumping to conclusions, personalizing and evaluating the situation from an emotional perspective, are common traps military members fall into.

It's natural to subconsciously resort to these mental crutches. Remember, it's not the end of the world; this type of negative thinking can become second nature. The brain is the most complex device in the universe, and without proper conditioning it may automatically make faulty determinations.

The first stride in mental condition is to always remember to step back and analyze the situation; by doing so you will avoid irrational emotional responses, tunnel vision and senseless reactions.

What is one's first reaction when cut off by another driver? Rage, agitation or feeling disrespected, right?

It's frivolous to dwell on such incidents, clear your emotional response and move on. If the situation dictates action, your reasoned evaluation will make it easier to take the appropriate action.

As mental anxiety and stress mount, remembering to analyze the situation will help pinpoint the source of one's frustrations. One of the best ways to identify the sources of stress is to analyze habits, attitudes and excuses. Write them down and reflect on how these three things dictate one's mental resiliency and toughness. What could have been done differently to avoid any thinking traps? Maybe it's just time to relieve some pent up stress and emotions.

The famous writer James Howell once said, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It's a truth that results in mental health professionals consistently prescribing the same stress relief technique--make time for fun and relaxation.

Bottom line, whenever encountering an unfamiliar situation that affects your mental, spiritual, social or physical wellbeing, never hesitate to utilize the trained professionals the Air Force provides. The mental health office, family advocacy, chapel, Health and Wellness Center or Airman and Family Readiness Center are ready to help ensure one's mental toughness and conditioning are paired with positive self-esteem and coping skills. These professionals are available during challenging times and will bolster one's ability to react to stress in a constructive manner.

Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force attend Andersen's leadership school

by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
36th Wing Public Affairs

2/12/2013 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- For the first time ever, service members from Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard attend the Airman Leadership School scheduled to graduate Feb. 19.

This is the first class in Andersen ALS history with a Coast Guard student, and the second class with Navy participation.

ALS prepares and trains future NCOs for increased responsibilities and is one of many professional military education courses in the Air Force. ALS classes cover topics from military professionalism, Airmen supervision, verbal and written communication and group dynamics.

Tech. Sgt. Esperanza Urbano, 36th Force Support Squadron ALS instructor, said the whole intent of mixing the branches is to give Airmen the opportunity to work side-by-side with sister services. According to her, a significant number of Airmen who go through ALS have neither deployed nor worked in a joint environment.

"We have that sister-service rivalry, which is great, but at the end of the day we have to respect and recognize what everyone brings to the table," said Sergeant Urbano. "This class gives the Airmen an opportunity to learn from their fellow service members' personal accounts on what their branch does and how they operate."

Direct interaction also helps clear misconceptions about the role of each branch and what they bring to the fight.

"It's a great learning experience," said Senior Airman Melissa Durkin-Willman, 734th Air Mobility Squadron air terminal operations center information controller. "Especially working at the ATOC, I work with different branches that go through the flightline. That's why it is great to interact with the Navy and the Coast Guard and learn their role in the military."

Though the curriculum was written specifically to prepare Air Force NCOs, students from outside of the Air Force did not have a hard time grasping the fundamentals.

"It wasn't a huge difference," said Aviation Structural Mechanic 2nd Class Michael Decker, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron TWO FIVE. "I had to learn certain forms and procedures and get used to ranks and enlisted performance reports, but the material on bullet writing and counseling was pretty much the same across the board."

Sergeant Urbano said the class integrated really well, and the concept really helps students to be exposed to a joint learning environment.

"The students we have in this class have reached out to one another and have come together very well. I think with any class, it just depends on the dynamics and the personalities of the students involved. This particular class has been performing very well as a team."

The ALS instructors are trying to make this a more permanent dynamic. Future classes will continue to be open to Coast Guard and Navy E-5s.

"This class gave me the chance to learn the culture of the other branches," said AM2 Decker. "Diversity is a good thing. When you're around people who have different perspectives, it helps you grow and see the bigger picture. It gave me a better outlook on how to adjust to people, reach out and provide assistance if needed. The class gave me a more in-depth understanding on what I have to do as a supervisor."

Top Reserve shirt talks first sergeants' importance

by Tech. Sgt. Richard Gonzales
419th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

2/12/2013 - HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- Early in his career, Chief Master Sgt. Michael Bellerose saw a first sergeant fix a problem others said couldn't be solved. Bellerose, a security forces patrolman at the time, was working at a base air show and someone told him there weren't enough box lunches for him and his team, he recalled. A first sergeant overheard the conversation and 45 minutes later Bellerose and his team had food. That small act of kindness from a random first shirt set the path for his Air Force career, he said.

Two decades and a dozen assignments later, Bellerose is Air Force Reserve Command's first sergeant functional manager. He mentors 509 first sergeants and advises Reserve leaders on how best to use those Airmen. Bellarose will speak here Friday during Team Hill's Chiefs Recognition Ceremony at The Landing. Prior to his speaking, I sat down with him to discuss the role of first sergeants.

Is being a first sergeant tough?
It is the toughest job ever for an enlisted Airman. You see the good, bad and ugly of a unit. But it's also very rewarding. First sergeants take care of Airmen in the shadow of the mission. If a first sergeant is doing a job well, the unit is going to succeed, and we see that on unit climate assessments. If a first sergeant has good ratings on a climate assessment, the unit is most likely excelling in its mission.

So, what's the benefit for Airmen to become first sergeants?
Well, we go from being operational leaders as supervisors to strategic leaders as first sergeants. First sergeants get incredible leadership development when stepping out of their career fields. We see people go back to their units after taking off their diamond, and a lot of them end up taking on larger responsibility. Nothing else offers the leadership opportunity and development you get from being a first sergeant. If you ask any first sergeant to take off his or her diamond and go back to their old career field, none of them wants to leave.

What do you do to help shirts become better leaders?
What I really like to do is get a new first sergeant and take them away from what they know. For example, I want to take a first sergeant with background in the mission support group and put them in the maintenance group, so they can learn a whole new culture in their wing. And a few years later, move them to operations or medical. So when they go back to their unit, they're a senior NCO with experience in several distinct cultures, which increases their ability to lead and understand the entire organization.

What skills help a Reserve first sergeant succeed?
A first sergeant's job isn't done at the end of a UTA, so networking is a huge piece of being a first sergeant. If things go wrong, you need a good network to get things done in a timely manner, especially when you only see your Airmen one weekend a month. Family problems, marital problems and financial issues are the kind of things that come up, and a first sergeant needs to be able to know how to quickly help their Airmen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Resiliency: Everybody's got time for that

by Staff Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

2/11/2013 - MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- The military lifestyle is exceptionally fast-paced, demanding and hectic; however, through a series of focused actions, combating unforeseen stressors can become second nature.

Resiliency strengthening is the catalyst needed to get through hard times.

The masterminds behind ensuring the well-being of Airmen and their families have been working overtime to find ways of improving "Comprehensive Airman Fitness." They've determined greater focus should be placed on four "wellness pillars" in order to maximize one's resiliency: physical, mental, social and spiritual.

Physical resiliency involves a balanced and healthy diet, regular exercise and the ability to project a professional image.

As stated, sticking to a healthy diet is just one of three essential elements that make up physical resilience, and through a few quick diet changes you can increase alertness, concentration, calmness and relaxation.

Have you ever heard the phrase, "You are what you eat?" Well, that is exactly true. Those that find themselves nibbling on junk food for a quick snack are only setting themselves up for failure. These snacks appear to be harmless, but in all actuality every time someone eats candy or drinks a soda, not only are they signaling their body to store fat--they're disassembling their own muscle, noted Dr. Helen Hazuda, professor of medicine at University of Texas Health Science Center.

How about breakfast? Are you making sure you start your day off with wholesome foods that contain enough vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates to fuel your day? If not, you have failed yourself before you have even started.

To jumpstart your healthy approach, start with a small, yet nutritious breakfast. Second, make sure that you are eating at least four to five moderate meals a day; this will increase your metabolism, which subsequently increases your fat burning and energy storage. Lastly, refrain from snacking late at night and make sure you include foods from all the major food groups: grains, fruits and vegetables, milk and dairy, meat, and fats and simple sugars.

Although proper eating habits are a great start, without the essential caveat of regular exercise, their effects will have diminishing returns. Exercise has long been a key to what we now call resiliency and what the first recorded exercisers, the Greeks, called their "healthy mind in a healthy body," philosophy.

Exercise prepares the body both mentally and physically. Implementing at least a 20-minute cardio and 20-minute strength training routine five times a week will prepare you for the mental and physical challenges you may encounter. Additionally, regular exercise helps promote weight control, combats health conditions and diseases, improves your mood, boosts your energy and increases the effectiveness of sleep.

The bottom line is that physical activity and exercise are great ways to improve your mood, increase your health and relieve unwanted stress.

Through balanced and healthy eating habits and frequent exercise, the third essential element of physical resilience all but falls into place; projecting a professional image.

"A polished professional military image will not only make you stand out among your peers, but reflects how confident you are," noted Lt. Col. Mark Horner, the former 380th Expeditionary Force Support deployed squadron commander. "It provides others with a sense of credibility in your abilities."

Thus said, it's apparent that with increased confidence and credibility, both mood and production will subsequently increase.

Resiliency, although it may seem cut and dry, cannot be fixed overnight, it's an ongoing process--that starts with you!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

On the way out: Chief shares legacy, advice for future chiefs

by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Rau
460th Space Wing Public Affairs

2/7/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Only one percent of the population serves in the military, and only one percent of that ever makes the rank of chief master sergeant. So how do the most successful Airmen achieve this prestigious rank?

Chief Master Sgt. Mark Harper's, 460th Operations Group superintendent, 30-year career lays out the framework for the path from airman basic to chief master sergeant.

Harper started his Air Force journey March 8, 1983, as a law enforcer and quickly transitioned into a military working dog handler. Over the course of his multiple assignments and deployments, Harper progressed through the ranks. However, it was not until his promotion to staff sergeant through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers program that he understood the type of Airman he wanted to become.

"I was STEP promoted from senior airman to staff; that was a pivot point for my career," Harper recalled. "What it said about my leadership to me, in my mind, was the type of supervisor I should be -- take care of your people. (My leadership) gave me a lot of opportunities, they challenged me, they saw something in me, and I responded."

The next major milestone in Harper's career was one many Airmen may eventually face; leave the job you love and fill the needs of the Air Force.

"My chief came to me and his words were, 'It's time to grow up Sergeant Harper; I'm taking you out of canine,'" explained Harper as he remembered the career-changing move. "'There are bigger things for you to do; and if you stay in the working dog world, you are going to cap out at master (sergeant)'. And I knew this was true."

After this epiphany, Harper began taking on more special assignments. These experiences created additional opportunities for Harper and an accelerated chance to make rank, as well as molding him into a total-force Airman. Harper received takings to the Pentagon and the Joint-Staff, but the most crucial decision he made was on an opportunity that would change his career path forever.

"I knew what awaited me if I went back to the cop world, but I decided that I wanted to do something different," said Harper. "The Air Force was doing some force shaping, and I wanted the challenge; so I went to (communications) school and I became a 3C. It was good to see that even at 18 years, the Air Force will be willing to give you an opportunity if you are willing to take it."

Through this career path, Harper was selected for chief master sergeant his first time eligible. This may have been the finish line for a young Harper when he first joined the Air Force, but now it was new starting line. As a chief, he had one of the largest spheres of influence that an enlisted member could achieve, and he was ready to use it for what he knew was right.

"I want to take care of Airman, and I want to protect them from some of the things that I saw," said Harper. "I wanted to be in a position that if there was a wrong I wanted to help correct it. That was my motivator -- to make the rank, make a difference and give those a voice that in our hierarchy may not have."

Now as Harper enters the twilight of his career, the wisdom and knowledge he has accumulated over three decades of service becomes a beacon for the next generation of Airman. The roadmap to becoming a chief is etched into his career as three distinct ideals -- mentorship, opportunity and trust.

Having a mentor, according to Harper, is a critical tool in staying relevant and being successful in today's Air Force.

"Why should we have to learn from the same mistakes; why can't we learn from others?" asked Harper. "I believe it's critical that you have someone that you can trust and has been successful that you can turn to. It's not always senior members, but sometimes junior enlisted, as well. I would not have made it this far without my mentors."

The opportunity the Air Force provides for assignments and career development can significantly affect an Airman's chances to make rank, as was shown with Harper's service.

"Don't just sit back and be the person, who says, 'I just want to do my job. I just want to disappear," explained Harper. "Take on some challenges that will push you. You need to remain flexible while being open minded; but once you've decided, have that passion."
The most crucial ideal, according to Harper, is trust -- the trust in your leadership, the trust in your Air Force family and being entrusted to make the right decisions.

"It was more important to me to do what was right than to move ahead," said Harper. "When you come in, make your decision that you are going to do your best and live those core values because they are not just words. If you live them, you will not only be successful professionally, but personally as well."

However, there is another trait that defines Harper, one the humble chief does not claim for himself.

"His loyalty," Col. DeAnna Burt, 460th OG commander, defined as Harper's greatest trait. "I never questioned that he had my back and gave me open, honest and candid feedback. To me that is the key component to a successful senior NCO. Loyalty provides the foundation for trust between a commander and their superintendent and fosters a team environment. Without loyalty, the relationship falls apart."

As the book closes on the service of this life-long Airman, Burt believes that her group superintendent's legacy will continue on to those he passes the torch.

"Chief Harper's legacy is his big heart and passion for taking care of Airman," Burt explained. "He never faltered in taking care of others before himself and ensuring our Airmen have all the tools they need for success."

This sentiment is echoed in the most candid vision of the retiring chief master sergeant: "If we don't succeed together, then we all have failed."

Act like a Superhero

by Chief Master Sgt. Brian Bischoff
Air Force Reserve Command

2/11/2013 - LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AFNS) -- I was recently picking up a few items at a local retail chain at lunchtime; everywhere I walked, someone wanted to shake my hand or say, "Thank you for your service." It made me proud to be wearing the uniform of the U.S. Air Force.

While waiting in the checkout lane, I noticed a little boy shopping with his mom was staring at me from his perch in the cart. I smiled and said "Hello," but he just kept staring.

His mom apologized and explained he was crazy about people in uniform, and his hero was Captain America. She said he watches the movie over and over and puts on a little uniform to defend the house.

"I think that's a good hero to have," I said. As I answered, it got me thinking we need to act more like superheroes.

OK, stick with me here. That doesn't mean that we should put on capes and masks and climb to the top of the roof to see what dastardly deeds need to be thwarted. Your spouse would most likely tell you to "Get down before you hurt yourself," and "Take off that getup before the neighbors see you."

What it does mean is we need be worthy of kids' admiration -- like a superhero. So, here are a few things about superheroes we need to know:

1. Superheroes never believe their own write-up. They are humble (except when fighting a bad guy) and neither flashy nor boastful. They save the day and retreat to their secret lair (office or flightline in our case).

2. Superheroes help people. Whether it's a neighbor needing help painting a fence, or the lady in the grocery store that can't quite reach that box of cereal, we need to lend a hand.

3. Superheroes are respectful towards the public. They use manners, say "Yes sir," or "Yes ma'am," and open doors for people at restaurants.

4. Superheroes live lives kids can look up to. They don't lie, cheat or misuse government credit cards. They set examples for other to follow, and they do the right thing even when no one is looking (sounds like "integrity" to me).

5. Superheroes are always there. They always have their friends' backs no matter what else is going on, even in the dark of night (sounds like "service before self").

6. Superheroes are in shape. Have you ever seen a chubby superhero? The bad guys would kick his butt! The public wouldn't have much confidence in an out-of-shape superhero, would they?

7. Superheroes always do their best. You'll never see a superhero slacking, or saving only enough people to make it look good. They give it their all every time, and people take notice (sounds like "excellence in all we do").

If you have ever seen the movie "Hancock," you have seen what a superhero is not. The protagonist, at first, is all about himself -- he's a drunk with a bad attitude, thinking he is above the law. The public has no faith in him, and he quickly loses faith in himself.

With the help of people who care about him, he becomes the superhero that, deep down, he knew he was capable of becoming. Maybe you know someone who, with a little help and direction, can live up to their potential (sounds like "leadership" to me). Sometimes he or she is the person in the mirror. Realizing it, facing it, accepting it and working on it are often the most heroic actions of all.

The point is that when you're off base and in uniform you are easily recognized as a member of the U.S. Air Force. Kids look at your uniform and are in awe; parents look at you and hope that their son or daughter will follow in your footsteps, and seniors thank you and appreciate that you're continuing to carry the torch to keep our country safe.

We should all act as though we're in uniform even when we're not and display the same hero-like qualities we're capable of, no matter what we're wearing. Let's all act like superheroes and truly earn the respect and admiration we're given every day. Think about it.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Lessons Learned from Mistakes

by Kim Brumley, Staff Writer
Mobility Forum

2/4/2013 - SCOTT AFB, IL. -- A night out on the town with friends, sipping on a few ice cold beers, and then driving home was at one time a regular weekend of fun for Staff Sgt. Robert Behm. As a young man, somewhat oblivious to the repercussions of his actions, he had the mindset of "It's just a few, I'm not drunk, I can drive home -- no problem." But the sobering events of one night in 2009 changed his outlook on drinking and driving, as well as the course of his life.

After leaving a social gathering where he had been drinking, Behm got into his car and drove away. He said, "I didn't think I was drunk." Even after he was pulled over by a police officer, Behm still did not think he was intoxicated enough to go to jail. He was in denial even as he was handcuffed, placed in the back of the police car, and taken to the station. It wasn't until he was being booked and charged with driving under the influence that he realized just how serious the situation was. After analyzing the series of events that night, he said, "it wasn't the result of one bad decision; it was the result of a toppling tower of bad decisions" that landed him behind bars.

"I kept thinking that it couldn't happen to me. I was a Staff Sergeant in the United States Air Force, and I am as responsible and successful as they come. I had to live a lie and deny my own immaturity to make those choices. I really thought that I could drink and drive responsibly. It took red and blue lights in my rearview mirror to see how far off I was in my decision making and how one poor choice could change my life ... or worse -- the life of someone else."

Behm was forced to reevaluate his carefree lifestyle and make some needed changes. The alterations went beyond his personal life and into his military career, where he is taking his hard-learned lesson and using it to educate other Airmen on the hazards of drinking and driving. This year, he is one of 10 chosen as a representative for the Airman-to-Airman Safety Advisory Council. This unique peer council is predominately comprised of representatives close in age (17-26) reaching out to those most likely to have mishaps. Each representative has been directly or indirectly involved in a mishap that resulted from poor choices.

Since his appointment to the council, Behm has worked at AMC and briefed the wing at Scott AFB, Ill., delivered eight briefings at Vandenberg, Calif., and briefed his squadron. He will be speaking at a Wingman Day, at Airmen Leadership School in Clarksville, Tenn., and Charleston AFB, S.C., and at the First Term Airman Center for Airmen on their first enlistment. He said talking at FTAC is particularly important because "I want to try to get them off on the right foot."

At every talk, Behm encourages questions and lets attendees know that nothing is off limits. He also motivates his audiences not to have feelings of inspiration from his story, but to have feelings of detestation.

He said, "If people can feel as disgusted by my actions as I do, then maybe they can learn the lesson from me instead of the hard way. Some have anger that I'm still in the Air Force, and I respect that. I share with them that I was blessed and learned from that situation, and now there are so many that are benefitting."

In addition to the briefings, Behm has also been active in producing videos to raise awareness on a variety of safety issues. He was featured on the AMC Critical Days of Summer 2012 video, as well as a one-minute video shot for the Airman-to-Airman (A2A) program. The A2A team combined their safety knowledge to write, act, and shoot another safety video. He said, "We tried to make it memorable so that those who watched it would think about what they were doing next time they were put in the same situations."

Although Behm and the other Airmen featured in these videos have made mistakes in the past, they can be commended for their work in educating others with the hope that their fellow Airmen do not repeat the same avoidable and potentially life threatening mishaps.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

The Guard and Reserve Network hosts 'elevator pitch' workshop

by Capt Peter Shinn
Officer Training School

2/5/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Business leaders from the local community joined Air University staff, faculty and students Jan. 23 to evaluate a series of 60-second "elevator pitches."

The Guard and Reserve Network, or GARNET, sponsored this first-ever AU Pitch-Fest, held at the Air War College. Military members and veterans received constructive feedback after pitching their big idea, their qualifications for their next job or any other topic they chose.

Chief Master Sgt. Carl Collins, the Air National Guard's senior advisor to the Barnes Center for Enlisted Education and GARNET's co-founder, said an elevator pitch is what you might say to someone in a position of influence or power if you had just a minute or two of their time.

"Imagine stepping onto an elevator with the secretary of defense or the CEO of a major company," Collins said. "Rather than making small talk about the weather during the ride up to the executive suites, a polished pitch allows anyone to potentially convince that senior leader to continue the discussion in more detail later."

Opportunities to practice and improve brief presentation skills, like the AU Pitch-Fest, are an important part of GARNET's mission to help veteran's find meaningful work, according to Col. Edward Vaughan, the Air National Guard advisor to the commander and president of Air University and GARNET's other co-founder.

"Why should Silicon Valley and Seattle have all the fun of pitching business start-ups to potential investors," Vaughan asked. "Military veterans represent a creative, results-oriented segment of our workforce that can thrive when exposed to entrepreneurial methods and language.

Even if they don't want to start a business, these skills are vital for success in today's job market." A panel of local business leaders evaluated the pitches, which focused on military-related value propositions. Lt. Col. Ron Daniels, Air National Guard advisor to the Spaatz Center for Officer Education, pitched an initiative to expand education programs for military members.

"On the spot feedback from experienced business professionals made pitch-fest a game changer for me," Daniels said. "That feedback translates to my ambitions beyond the military and will make me more effective the next time I have to be persuasive, but brief."

Michael Cameron, a finishing plant manager with Sabic Innovative Plastics in Burkville, Ala., served as one of the presentation evaluators. He said he was impressed by what he saw and heard. "I interview and hire lots of professionals in my line of work," he said. "The pitches here were of great quality. By the end of the session, I think I learned as much as anyone in the room."

Col. Raymond O'Mara, chairman of the strategy department at Air War College, provided additional feedback to the presenters at the event.

"The pitch-fest highlighted the critical nature of the ability to express yourself clearly and organize complex concepts into a coherent message," he said. The next pitch-fest will be held downtown, and organizers hope to include even more local business leaders. Those interested in participating can contact the organizers, Vaughan and Collins, through the Guard and Reserve Network group on LinkedIn.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Consider the eraser

Commentary by Chaplain (Capt.) David Dziolek
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Chapel

2/1/2013 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- Have you ever thought about the purpose of an eraser? I can hear you say, "Wow! Deep, spiritual reflection today, eh Chap?"

Seriously, why was the eraser invented? The obvious answer is to correct a mistake we have made while writing on paper. The eraser allows us to wipe away our mistake and start over. The same could be said of white-out or the backspace button on the computer. They function as a way to fix errors so we can go back to the beginning and start over, correcting where we went wrong.

I find it interesting how we so easily allow ourselves to make corrections when errors occur on paper. However, when we make a mistake in life we often are not able to move past it. We struggle with guilt and shame and we beat ourselves up. We demand so much of ourselves and when we fail or when we fall we become our own judge, jury and executioner. It almost seems like errors are expected on paper, but not in life. We make room for mistakes in writing and are able to erase and correct the error without much thought, but we do not offer that same grace to mistakes we make in living.

One of my favorite Proverbs says, "For the righteous falls seven times and rises up again," (Proverbs 24:16). I love this because it means everyone, even those we would consider "righteous," still falls. They still make mistakes. And they still need a way to go back to the beginning and start over, correcting where they went wrong. This gives me great encouragement to know when I make mistakes and fall, and I will, I can also go to God and ask Him to forgive me and to help me start over.

While it is true we should have concern when we fall, the real problem is not simply in the falling, the real problem is when we do not get back up and allow ourselves to start over.