JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
When Tech. Sgt. William Gabel was given a developmental special duty assignment, it was an opportunity for him to step away from his career in maintenance, broaden his leadership experiences and see the Air Force from a different perspective.
Gabel is currently serving as flight chief of the 382nd Training Squadron, 59th Training Group. He arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston in August 2017, and expects to move to his next assignment in August 2021.
“I have never had an opportunity like this before in my career. To get completely out of my maintenance career field and mold future leaders has been amazing,” he said.
A developmental special duty assignment can be in any of ten specialties outside of an Airman’s normal career field. They include career assistance advisor, military training instructor, military training leader, U.S. Air Force Academy military training instructor, Airman and Family Readiness noncommissioned officer, first sergeant, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard noncommissioned officer, recruiter, and professional military education instructor.
Gabel, who was an electronic warfare technician stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy, was selected to become a military training leader at the training group where he mentors young Airmen straight out of Air Force Basic Military Training. He helps the young Airmen refine their knowledge of military standards and discipline, and leads them to become the best versions of themselves, he said.
As flight chief, Gabel leads five other military training leaders, shepherding approximately 300 Airmen at any given time, he said, noting that his days are difficult and unpredictable.
Tech. Sgt. Samantha Taylor, assistant flight chief at the 383rd Training Squadron, concurs.
“The daily life as an MTL can never be planned,” she said. “No matter how much you think you have everything under control, a new situation will always arise and put your quick thinking and leadership abilities to the test.”
Every day the MTLs might do anything from helping Airmen vote to ensuring they have all of their paperwork to get married, or guiding them through the darkness of suicidal ideation, Gabel said.
He said the assignment has definitely stretched in his capacities as a leader, but if he could sum up his experience in one word, it would be “growth.”
“Coming into this assignment, I was a relatively shy and introverted person,” Gabel said. “However, through this developmental special duty assignment, I have worked with MTLs from backgrounds such as medical, security forces, civil engineering, personnel and more.
“Working with all these personalities in a medical environment has opened my mind up tremendously with how to attack a problem,” he said.
Taylor said one good quality she has seen in Gabel has been his ability to empathize with others.
“Being in the military, we are basically taught not to show or share our emotions with others at our job,” she said. “I have seen him become a more caring and compassionate person with the Airmen in training.”
Being around high-achieving leaders has also meant that Gabel is surrounded by people who push him to become the best version of himself, he said.
Gabel previously earned an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force in avionic systems technology, but he said working with other MTLs at this assignment led him to complete a second CCAF degree in education and training management.
He is currently working on a bachelor of science in administration and management, and, after seeing his fellow MTLs apply for and gain admittance into Officer Training School, Gabel is working on that application, too.
“The perspective and confidence I have within myself has been a 180-degree change since when I arrived three years ago,” Gabel said.
His passion is aircraft and avionics, so, Gabel said if he is accepted to officer training school, he hopes to become either a remotely piloted aircraft pilot, flying drones from remote locations, or an air battle manager, monitoring aircraft and strategizing for successful offense.
Gabel said this assignment has challenged him to learn more and take on more responsibilities, in part due to the people who were placed around him. And, when his current assignment concludes, he wants to help others to aim higher as well.
“I plan use a more philosophical leadership approach in the future, rather than simply telling people what to do,” he said. “I want to inspire those around me to believe in themselves, and encourage them to achieve all their goals.”