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Building Better Airmen

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Bottom Line: We have a solemn daily duty to Build Better Airmen for our Air Force, as well as certify them as mission-ready within just 30 days of hitting the Korean peninsula to ensure we stand ready to guard the freedom of 51 million people in the Republic of Korea.  Were you aware documented initial feedbacks via Airman Comprehensive Assessment worksheets must be accomplished within 30 days (vs. 60 days) of date arrived station at Osan Air Base IAW 51 FW Ready Mustang Program?  We Build Better Airmen by providing deliberate, timely and honest feedback.  Initial feedbacks are very important to this initiative, especially during a 1-year tour. 

As supervisors and leaders, one of our biggest challenges is guiding and mentoring our people. We have a “Professional Obligation” to train our Airmen as competent technicians in their Air Force Specialty Code, as well as a “Moral Imperative” to develop our Airmen as military professionals. Without doubt, feedback (formal and informal) is our most critical tool, providing us with a broad mechanism that, when used properly, results in substantial gains on many levels. Unfortunately, we do not appropriately utilize this mechanism as often as required. Additionally, we as supervisors often lack appropriate training and mentorship ourselves outside of our small Professional Military Education snapshot.  Moreover, as people, we often let personalities, ego and emotion cloud our judgment. 

There is no one silver bullet to solve our feedback dilemma. By dilemma, I’m referring to the constant struggle to both seek and provide feedback appropriately. Supervisors and subordinates alike often miss the point of feedback. Feedback is far more than simply sitting down with a subordinate and running through some check boxes on a form. Feedback is about establishing a foundation of conduct and performance based on objective and measurable standards, identifying minimum expectations and laying out individual and team goals. It is an opportunity to readdress those same points over a period of time, to review a member’s performance over that period and to provide an honest opportunity to help a member correct course if or when necessary in a timely manner. 

Let me foot-stomp that to Build Better Airmen, a conscious “investment” from both the supervisor and subordinate must be shared because feedback is not just a supervisor responsibility. The supervisor and subordinate relationship is the most important relationship in our Air Force and requires a relationship built on trust. Often with feedbacks, we do not make time for the honest and hard to have conversations with our Airmen because we are concerned with hurting each other’s feelings. Instead, we focus on hitting the feedback target dates vs. truly staying connected and openly and honestly communicating throughout the entire feedback process.

Building Better Airmen is something we should be “Extremely Passionate About!” I believe in planting seeds at the beginning of Airmen careers. Airmen should have an expectation to want feedback, as well as be receptive to the feedback given to them. If they feel they are not getting proper feedback, then they need to up-channel their concerns without fear of reprisal. If we are to leave the Air Force better than we found it, we must absolutely do our best to train and prepare our replacements and Build Better Airmen. I honestly believe the vast majority of our supervisors and subordinates want to better themselves. They simply lack proper guidance and direction; something we cannot fall short on when mission-effectiveness and our “Fight Tonight” readiness posture are on the line!