Professional Development: Every Airman has a role

  • Published
  • By Maj. Curtis Schwarz
  • 17th Logistics Readiness Squadron

The Oxford Dictionary defines professional development as “the development of competence or expertise in one's profession.”  In the Profession of Arms, this ranges from occupational skills or technical expertise in one’s career field to institutional competencies, which are key to providing the agility necessary to operate successfully in a constantly changing environment at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.  The Air Force Strategic Master Plan’s Human Capital Annex recognizes that a “World-class application of airpower requires a highly specialized and competent workforce developed through deliberate training, education and leadership experiences.”

In their October 2017 paper ‘The Redesigned Air Force Continuum of Learning,’ Lt. Gen. Roberson and Dr. Stafford remind us of Gen. Goldfein’s desire for “Air Force squadrons to be places where Airmen bond, learn, lead, develop, sustain the Air Force culture and have fun together.”

While addressing the crowd during his change of command in November 2017, Lt. Gen. Kwast stated Air Education and Training Command personnel must continue developing Airmen “who can outthink, outlearn, out-innovate and out-trust any adversary.”  He went on to demand we continue to “teach the next generation how to learn more rapidly than their adversaries” and to “teach them how to innovate more broadly across a larger series of networks to seed more ideas and bring together more creative awareness.”  Additionally, he has challenged all of us to develop our personnel in small groups of 15 or less, primarily at the unit level, to meet Goldfein’s objective of revitalizing the squadron.

As members of the 17th Training Wing, our responsibility to shape tomorrow’s Airmen is clearly laid out in the wing’s mission statement, which in part is to develop and inspire exceptional professionals.  At face value, the focus may appear to be solely the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, and Fire Protection students; however, this is not the case.  We are charged with developing all Airmen, military and civilian, both at Goodfellow and our geographically separated units.

This mandate is further reinforced by the wing’s vision and priorities which direct us to set the standard for lifelong learning, improve the mission, and take care of our people.  Drilling down even further to the wing’s focus areas, you will find the tasks to develop and inspire innovative leaders and teams, optimize mission execution through innovation and agility, and enhance professional development.  After all, the overarching guiding principles of the wing are agility, trust, inspiration and development.

The 17th TRW has been and will continue to be a leader when it comes to developing its Airmen.  The wing is only one of a handful of units with a long-standing Flight Leader’s course and was recently recognized for winning the Continuum of Learning Innovation Challenge in the category of enhancing faculty/staff development.  Additionally, the wing reinstituted Roll Calls to foster face-to-face communication and strengthen the bond inherent in small teams.  Out of my seven assignments, this is the first time I have seen anything like the Total Force Development Counsel, which augments professional development provided by the units, Career Assistance Advisor, Airmen & Family Readiness Center, and other organizations.

The current focus on professional development is exciting because in addition to senior leadership emphasis and support at all levels, funds may be available to implement your great ideas.  These could come from the Squadron Innovation Fund, the 17th TRW “Spark Tank” or a variety of other sources.  Units have already started expanding professional development at the unit level, but we can always do better.

Do your part to help the Air Force and the wing further strengthen our squadrons.  Put your unit at the forefront by sharing your ideas, experimenting, and shaping professional development.  Your idea or approach could serve as a building block or spark some else’s imagination.  As Col. Mills recently stated, “innovation is not about solo genius, it's about collective genius.”  Therefore, I encourage you to proactively take part in your unit’s professional development.

Provide feedback and share your ideas with your chain of command, me, the 17 TRW/SparkTank, or visit the wing’s professional development SharePoint site at: