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Training: Key to overcoming unfinished business

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- It was a cool winter's morning in San Antonio. A light drizzle had covered the top of my military training instructor's campaign hat and had begun to create a steady drip directly in front of my eye-line. As I stood at the edge of the drill pad watching a young staff sergeant perform his final evaluation before becoming a certified MTI, I was focused. Focused on every movement he made, every movement the basic trainees made, and focused on the position and mannerisms of the evaluator which critiqued my student's ability to control and correct a formation.

I needed him to pass, not only because of the hours upon hours of work we had put toward his development, but also because this was the last bit of business I had at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. This was not only my last day wearing a campaign hat, but the last day I would wear the stripes of a technical sergeant on my arm. I was set to leave the next day to travel to Maxwell AFB, Ala. to begin my initial officer training at Officer Training School, and I was not going to leave unfinished business.

He succeeded because it was my job to ensure he succeeded. As he began his tour pushing flights, I walked to the car and ended mine. This particular staff sergeant has done great things since I left and I am not surprised. I had set the expectations, held him to a standard, and ended confident that the training I provided was in-line with the Air Force mission. That is our lot in life. In every interaction, every task we perform, we train those who will replace us.

People often ask me why I crossed over to the "dark side," but that is my focus. Why was I able to transition from enlisted to officer? I was able to confidently move on to a new phase in my career because I had trained others to follow in my footsteps and perform the duties I am no longer able to perform.

Now I am being trained again.

Trained to perform a new duty in the Air Force and replace another as they move to the next step in their career and in life. That is the key to our success as the world's greatest air power...training.

Being the best at our jobs is a small fraction of being a successful leader, and it's not enough. Our careers are constantly evolving and if we are not leaving a steady stream of capable workers filling the shoes behind us, we have failed as Airmen. Luckily, we have a competent and willing force of Airmen standing in line to do just that, and it is our obligation to foster this enthusiasm and cultivate the next crop of non-commissioned officers, senior non-commissioned officers, and commissioned officers.

The key is to actively seek out opportunities to train and mentor the up-and-coming. Do not be the passive trainer who waits for questions before you act. Take that Airman by the arm and push them head-first into the project you are working, but you have to be focused.

You have to be focused on the Airman's performance, focused on the factors that can add or detract from success, and focused on those who determine the standard for success. After all, you need your replacement to succeed if you are to proceed to the next step.

Set the expectation, hold the standard, and train in-line with Air Force needs and you will leave no unfinished business.