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Deployed senior noncommissioned officers offered course in leadership

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

SOUTHWEST ASIA (July 30, 2004) -- Future senior noncommissioned officers at one forward deployed location were recently given an opportunity that until now might have been available only to those at their home stations.

Earlier this week, 26 master sergeant selectees attended the first Senior Noncommissioned Officer Symposium held in the U.S. Central Command Air Forces' area of responsibility. The symposium was designed to help technical sergeants gain a better understanding of the responsibilities that come with being a member of the top three enlisted ranks, said Master Sgt. Carolyn S. Starkweather, president of the local Top Four group and symposium coordinator.

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"When a person joins the SNCO Corps, the expectations of their supervisors, peers and subordinates change," Sergeant Starkweather said. "This symposium was designed to give these future master sergeants the opportunity to learn what those new expectations are."

One of the most inspiring moments of the symposium came from the most unexpected place — the junior enlisted members that sat on the Network 15 panel, said Master Sgt. Jeffery Martin, the Top Four vice president and symposium co-coordinator. Network 15 is an enlisted group that represents members in the ranks E-1 through E-5.

"During the Network 15 panel, an Airman told these future senior NCOs that an Airman's maximum effort will be done at a noncommissioned officer's minimum standard," Sergeant Martin said. "It was so profound and so simplistic — and he was right. If NCOs want their Airmen to perform to high standards, they must set high standards. If they take one thing away from this symposium, I hope this is it."

Getting Airmen to perform the mission to the highest standards is critical, Sergeant Martin explained, because for senior NCOs it is not their own performance that reflects on them, but the performance of their subordinates.

"You are not judged on your work any longer," he said. "You are judged on how your people do their work."

Symposiums offered to new SNCO selectees at their home stations would last as many as five days. Though the deployed version of the symposium was shorter — just a day and a half long — it didn't skimp on the important things symposium coordinators felt needed to be covered.

"We had four panels to provide our students the opportunity to learn what was expected of them by their commanders, first sergeants, subordinates and chiefs from across the wing," Sergeant Starkweather said. "We also invited the wing commander and command chief to give their perspective on what is expected of SNCOs."

The symposium also included visits by key wing staff offices like military equal opportunity and the judge advocate as well as a lecture by the Office of Special Investigations about the key security concerns senior NCOs need to be aware of.

In deployed locations, mission constraints have sometimes kept units from offering a senior NCO symposium to master sergeant selectees. Members of the local Top Four felt it was important to offer technical sergeants the seminar before they took on their new responsibilities, Sergeant Martin said.

"For some NCOs, it may have been two or three years since they attended the NCO academy," Sergeant Martin said. "This symposium "re-blues" you and helps you get ready to be the manager, the shop chief or the section head of your unit. It is important because it gives SNCO selectees a snapshot of what is coming for them. If we didn't offer this symposium, we would be doing our master sergeant selectees a real disservice."

To ensure technical sergeants on future deployments can benefit from the work they did, Sergeants Starkweather and Martin made sure to document their efforts.

"We put all the presentations on a CD, along with other information that would be helpful," Sergeant Starkweather said. "We are making a continuity binder to be left with the command chief so it can be done next year. And we are including critiques from this class, to help tailor the next seminar to their needs. The biggest challenge will be finding someone willing to do this, because this is the right thing to do."

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