A Special Team Of Educators Leads The Air Guard In A New Direction

Story & photos by SPC Charles Ames


Every other year, the Education and Training Office of the 'Old hands' teach 'rookies' about 'Core Values'Washington Air National Guard holds a Non- Commissioned Officer Leadership Academy for its junior NCOs. This years Academy was held at the beautiful and historic Eastern Washington University in Cheney, from 7-9 August, and drew 43 junior NCOs representing nearly every unit of Washington's Air National Guard.

The 1998 Washington Air National Guard Non-Commissioned Officers Leadership Academy focused on the Air Guard and Air Force ‘Core Values’. Key agenda issues were Workplace Fairness, Character, Harassment, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Time Management, and The Role of the Staff Sergeant (E-5) and Technical Sergeant (E-6). Other activities on the agenda included reviewing a Mentoring program and a self-administered personality test. But, far and away, the hot topic was harassment.

Eastern Washington University at Cheney provides the Academy with a professional academic setting

Definition

Sexual harassment is defined by the Washington Air National Guard and the United States Air Force as any unwelcome sexual advance, request, or conduct as a condition of employment or advancement, which creates an undesirable work environment, to include after-hours activities.

Having been the focus of several harassment issues over recent years, the military is moving to increase awareness of the warning signs. Harassment isThe course broke from traditional military instruction methods not limited to sexual harassment. It could also be racially motivated, or any of a wide range of other abuses. "Harassment and discrimination are inter-related. People should expect to be treated fairly, with respect and dignity," said Instructor MSG Kellie LaRue.

"I think we're at a crossroads right now," said Instructor MSG Casci. "These Non-Commissioned Officers will have to decide whether to go with the status quo, with the way things have been in the past, or to take the Air National Guard in the direction they want it to go.  It’s time for them to make a stand - right now - in their "rookie" season as leaders… to move towards our [Air Force and Air Guard] ‘Core Values’. One person, one issue, one time, one stand is enough to make a difference for anybody who might be looking on."

"There are lots of people who don't have the strength or the ability to stand up and say, 'Somebody has to fix this'.

If one person at the right moment were to stand up and say one thing, it would give courage to others. Integrity is Role-playing and group problem solving were also topicsthe most important aspect of our ‘Core Values’. If you say you're one thing and people see you as something different, you lose integrity… and the Guard loses integrity. Everybody talks about the "old Guard", or the "good old boy network". That needs to change. And if it’s going to change, it needs to change with this new group of NCOs that are coming up. It has to change one person at a time, one person that will stand up for what they believe".

 

Says CMSgt Craig Weddle, one of the organizersStudents frequently broke into discussion groups and worked on group projects to this Academy, "This training is not a standard Air Force course, but rather, uniquely designed for the particular attendees from the Washington Air National Guard. It’s similar to the managerial and leadership training one might find presented by major corporations like Microsoft, Boeing, or US West."

"I have so much respect for the Tech Sergeants and Staff Sergeants that are going through this Academy", says Instructor CPT Nancy Reid, "probably because when I was prior enlisted I went through an NCO Academy that really focused my goals and changed my life. At those ranks, a person has been in long enough to know the system and yet they still have enough time ahead of them to affect a change. They have a lot of creative ideas."

MSG Casci discusses personal definitions of "Character""I am so pleased to be a part of this process. During our classes we talk a lot about doing what's right and knowing what the right thing is. What we've learned is that it all boils down to treating people with dignity and respect. That’s the bottom line. By the time problems have gotten to a level that the Commander must become involved, there are things that really could have been handled sooner and at lower levels. I hope that's one of the things that people learn this weekend: give feedback so that it doesn't continue, so that it stops at the lowest level."

As Instructor CMSgt LaRue’s years with the Washington Air National Guard draw to a close we get a unique perspective: "As a person approaching retirement, I'd like to say, I feel that I am leaving the Washington Air National Guard in very good hands based on my assessment of the highly-qualified individuals that have attended this seminar."Instructors impart their experience to this new generation of NCOs

Only a handful of other states offer this type of additional training. MG Frank Scoggins, the Commander of the Washington Air National Guard is very enthusiastic about these programs, which all concentrate on issues of vision, character, ethics, fairness, and professional conduct. These issues are presented and discussed in keeping with the circumstances that confront the Washington Air National Guard.

All the Instructors and guest speakers are members, or retired members, of the Washington Air or Army National Guard, and every training event begins with an address by a member of the Washington National Guard senior command, most often MG Scoggins himself. Since the programs are not standard USAF courses, attendance is not required for promotions. None of the programs are meant as a substitute for required USAF training or Professional Military Training (PME).

Students established new relationships that will last throughout their careersAlthough the NCO-LA is not a required course, there is never a shortage of students for this world-class series of seminars.     In the years when there is no NCO-LA held, the Education and Training Office holds an Officers Leadership Academy. The team also conducts seminars for Chief Master Sergeants, First Sergeants, Airmen, and First Line Supervisors of the Washington Air National Guard.

COL Steven Dal Porto, who, in his civilian life, is the Superintendent of a school district in Eastern Washington, organized the NCO-LA and heads the Education and Training Office.

The two other members of this special team are MSgt Deonne Hardy and CMSgt Craig Weddle.


Here are a few comments from some of the students...

Student SSgt Frank Chaco, 215th EIS, Everett; "I thought it was a fantastic program. It was more, much more than I expected. I'm going to go home and immediately put it to use. I thank everyone who put this together."

Student SSgt Troy Hopper, WADS, McChord AFB; "I thought it would be more of the same stuff you always hear about, but now that I've been here, I've found it very enjoyable. I’ve taken a lot more out of it than I was expecting to. The instructors have all been wonderful and entertaining, very informative, very easy to talk to.Graduation... just the beginning! I’ll recommend this to the rest of my shop."

Student TSgt Lisa Voie, 116th ASOS, Camp Murray; "I'd love to see others take these classes. I think that if we go back and teach others what we've learned, it will help make our workplaces more effective. Also, I think everyone learns something about themselves when you are dealing with the ‘Seven Effective Habits of Highly Successful People’ and how to better deal with different personalities."

Student SSgt Steven R. Paulsen, 241st CES, Camp Murray; "I wasn't particularly looking forward to coming here to begin with. But after getting over here, I can truly, honestly say that I'm glad I came as a supervisor, hopefully on his way up. I knew I had some communication problems and had your standard difficulties in expressing myself. It was nice to have all these seminars, especially on things I knew I could improve on. I didn't realize that everyone else had these same challenges."