JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Commissioning is a challenging process that not many military members have the chance to experience, but with hard work and dedication, it is possible to achieve. According to the Air Force personnel center, only 19 percent of active duty Airmen are officers. Of those 63,902 officers, only 20 percent commission through Officer Training School, making it an impressive feat.
2nd Lt. Brian Spears, former technical sergeant whose prior job was working in the quality assurance section of the 437th Operations Support Squadron in the Aircrew Flight Equipment flight, said his experience as an enlisted member helps him to be a more understanding leader in his new position as an officer and plays a part in shaping the type of leader he chooses to be.
Spears will be attending technical school for his new job in cyber warfare at the 373rd Training Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. He is still unsure of his future Air Force Specialty Code since it will depend on how he does in technical school.
Spears said he didn’t always know he wanted to join the Air Force. Before enlisting, Spears pursued a career in nursing, but soon realized it was not a good fit for his personality. He then decided to follow the example of his father and join the Air Force.
“I joined the Air Force to give myself direction and take advantage of the education benefits and things like that,” said Spears “My experience was like most people. I've had good years, I've had bad years, and hard years and great years. I feel like I’ve had a lot of enlisted experiences and can tell you now that I plan on going the whole 20 years and retiring.”
Spears feels that since he has had a well-rounded experience as an enlisted member, his understanding will help him have a unique perspective as an officer.
Thanks to good mentors, like civilian foreman Scott Lewis, Spears said he was able to get through the competitive commissioning process.
“He has been an incredibly great friend and somebody I can always talk to,” said Spears “He has given me a lot of great advice on how to get things done at Charleston. He has always been a great mentor.”
Spears also explained that Master Sgt. Jacob Cottrell, a flight chief assigned to the 437th OSS in the AFE flight and Master Sgt. Ryan Higgins, the noncommissioned officer in charge of AFE quality assurance, were both an inspiration to him and helped push him through the challenging process.
Higgins and Cottrell both strongly believed Spears was an ideal candidate to be an officer.
“I wasn't surprised to learn he wanted to commission,” said Higgins “I think it was a desire of his for a long time and he definitely had what it took to become an officer.”
Cottrell said that he feels that Spears is not only an excellent Airman, but also an exceptional person.
“I remember being very impressed by Spears’ dedication and commitment to get stuff done,” said Cottrell “His time management was phenomenal. He's a pretty impressive guy.”
Both mentors said that Spears is reliable, credible, trusting and humble, which are all characteristics of a good officer.
“I think Brian was the perfect example of what it takes to become an officer, and it was still a huge challenge for him to overcome,” said Higgins “If I was going to give advice to anyone about commissioning, it would be that if you’re not at that superior level, you probably need to focus on getting to that superior level. Make a trend of setting that exceptionally high bar so that way you can leave no doubt in the minds of the people picking the packages that they have to pick yours.”
Higgins said most of his co-workers were in agreement that Spears would make a good officer and he should commission. Spears had been trying to commission since 2017, but he did not make it the first two times he made the attempt.
“It was a shock,” said Spears “Everybody was saying that I was going to make it. When I found out I didn’t make it, they were just as bummed and devastated as I was. I think the hardest thing was talking to the Airmen about it because they wanted me to progress and reach my goals as well.”
“I just wanted to give up and not try but I had mentors who kept pushing me,” he said.
Spears said that it wasn't just the challenges with commissioning that were causing him trouble. He was also facing everyday struggles.
“It’s not just the package building for getting into OTS,” said Spears “Everyday things like getting the degree done were difficult. I was doubling up on classes while trying to make sure I wasn't burning myself out and making sure I was taking time for myself and my family. There are constant struggles in everyday life that you have to work around and navigate through to reach your goals. There are definitely challenges along the way but as long as you keep pushing forward and not letting them get in your way, then anybody could reach their goals.”
Spears said since he originally joined the military to utilize the education benefits, he wanted to repay the Air Force.
“I wanted to commission as a way to give back to the Air Force by using the education it gave me,” said Spears “I want to try to help give Airmen a voice. Enlisted members are able to speak up and say what they need, but I want to be the actual voice that tells the Airman's story to leadership to try to get them what they need.”
Spears continuously encourages Airmen to always seek to develop themselves and strive for their goals.
“Thrive wherever you are planted.” said Spears “Sure, some places are more desirable than others, but make the best of your situation. In my case, if you put in the hard work, and let your intentions be known, your leadership will help you get you to where you want to be. My technique for achieving my goal isn't just for the road that leads to a commission. It can lead others to the rank or position they desire, or even setting themselves up for success in the civilian world if they so choose.”