JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Air Education and Training Command’s senior enlisted leader, along with one of the architects of the Air Force’s Enlisted Force Development Action Plan, hosted an ‘Ask Me Anything” event to answer Airmen’s questions about the plan Feb. 22.
Chief Master Sgt. Erik Thompson, the command chief of AETC, and Chief Master Sgt. Stefan Blazier, chief of enlisted force development at Headquarters Air Force A1D, answered both serious and fun questions from Airmen with a mixture of humility and humor for over an hour on the social platform Reddit’s Air Force thread.
In response to a question asking how new supervisors should be validated as ready for the responsibility besides simply attending Airmen Leadership School, Blazier emphasized the need for the service’s unit-level SNCOs and NCOs to better prepare their subordinates to be capable leaders earlier on in their careers.
“The leap to be responsible for others is something we don't take seriously enough today. We often throw Airmen at brand-new supervisors when they get back from Airman Leadership School and just say ‘you'll figure it out,’” Blazier said “That's not prepping people for success, it's actually incredibly risky. You should not get training reps with real lives.”
Blazier also noted the force development team is sensitive to the demands on the force and they don’t want to create a “quick-fix” solution for leadership progression training, mentioning how current training is done through job qualification standards, standardization and evaluation, and more to ensure Airmen are ready for the job.
“Why do we avoid doing the same for leadership progression (especially because humans are so much more complex than hardware)?” Blazier added in his reply.
On the topic of education and training for junior enlisted Airmen focused on integrated deterrence with competitors like China and Russia noted in the “Competition-focused force” section of the plan, a commenter asked how Airmen at lower levels should learn what the term really means.
“This is foundational to our Force Development Action Plan,” Thompson said in his response. ”At all bases and all levels, you should start to see more discussions about competition with China and Russia, the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy (pending release of the latest versions), and how our Airmen fit into this mission set at all levels of development!”
In discussing the enlisted roadmap, Blazier noted the service needed to “start somewhere” when it came to the foundational "Blueprint" for Airmen mentioned in the “Front-line leader development” section of the plan.
“(The Blueprint) will link to current content, resources and opportunities today,” Blazier said. ”One day, we hope that it becomes fully Airmen-centered...and a "myBlueprint" development dashboard.”
Commenters posted urging the Chiefs to continue the conversations and thanking them for their transparency and willingness to answer questions with meaningful dialogue.
“We always encourage senior enlisted to meet our Airmen where they are, then try to bridge the gap,” Thompson said in reply. “…I think that being willing to reach out in forums where our Airmen are shows that we respect and value them.”
To read the entire conversation, visit https://www.reddit.com/r/AirForce/comments/syu4ek/open_now_ama_enlisted_force_development_action/.