JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C –
Professional development is an important part of an Airman’s career. Recognizing this, the Air Force Association organized “Airmen for Life,” a professional development event designed to bring all Airmen – officer, enlisted and civilian – together to listen to, learn from and speak to three influential panel leaders. The first event of the series was held at Joint Base Charleston June 25, 2018.
“What we’re doing today is actually an inaugural event. We are trying to get professional development and mentoring out to Airmen,” said retired Gen. Larry Spencer, Air Force Association president and former vice chief of staff of the Air Force. “We bring in experienced folks in the Air Force who have a lot of experience, and just try to help Airmen. Most of the time is spent on ‘Q and A.’ We want to hear from Airmen – what they think, what they are worried about and, for what it’s worth, we give them the benefit of our experience.”
In addition to Spencer, the panel consisted of two very distinguished retired chief master sergeants: retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy and retired Chief Master Sgt. Jan Adams. These three were not only successful in the Air Force, but also post-Air Force. Spencer went on to serve as the president of the Air Force Association, Roy is currently Scientific Research Corporation senior program manager, and Adams is the CEO of her company JMA Solutions. This event allowed them to share the leadership lessons they have learned and the wisdom they’ve picked up along the way.
“I learned a lot about success in this meeting,” said Airman 1st Class Madison Garman, 14th Airlift Squadron aviation resource management apprentice. “It felt very easy to ask a question to the speakers, and people were able to ascertain the information they most wanted. The speakers weren't trapped into a prepared speech, allowing for more flexibility. It felt like talking with a relative that mentored you rather than a retired CMSAF.”
The Air Force Association’s mission is to promote a dominant Air Force by advocating, educating and supporting Airmen. This event significantly contributed to their mission, as well as the JB Charleston mission of building and developing leaders, with over 200 civilians, officers and enlisted Airmen in attendance.
“We put on two professional development conferences every year – one in Orlando, Florida, and one in D.C.,” Spencer explained. “They are huge events and wonderful opportunities, but we know all Airmen can’t come. That’s the reason we’re starting this program – to bring the professional development to them. Our biggest purpose is to help Airmen. I was an Airman – I made staff sergeant right here at Charleston. I know what it’s like.”
All three panel members spoke about where they started their careers and where they are now, explaining their paths were full of trials and determination in order to become successful leaders. One piece of guidance they all had in common was never giving up on dreams, goals and most importantly people.
“I learned a lot about how leadership can be applied in different ways,” Garman said. “My favorite part was hearing how not all of the speakers had a defined plan for how they were going to achieve their goals. In the past I have been hyper-focused on having a plan to achieve my goals, but knowing that others have made success without this plan inspires me to continue to be the best I can.”
The panelists also emphasized how being a part of the Air Force family doesn’t stop once the uniform is off.
“Airmen for life – once you join the Air Force you’re an Airman.” Spencer said. “It doesn’t matter if you get out after four years or if you retire from the service, you’re always an Airman.”