The first course of the 5-part Enlisted Character Development series was held at Arnold Hall here Oct. 7, 2015.
The series is the first in the Air Force and is open to enlisted members of all branches and ranks.
“This is the first time the Air Force has had a platform where we can bring in enlisted members from any and all services, career fields, and ranks and talk about character development as it relates to the different course topics,” said Tech. Sgt. Jorge Cortijo, Air Education and Training Command Airman Heritage Museum command military training instructor and Enlisted Character Development Center project manager. “Each course will cover different areas of character that are based on values, and how we adapt them to the mission.”
The first course focused on “courage” as it pertains to character and the guest speaker was retired Army Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, University of Texas System, Leadership Development and Veterans Affairs associate vice chancellor who had more than 35 years of military service.
“Strength of character is essential if you desire to lead anything and anyone successfully,” He said during the course. “You grow your character. It’s not something that you are handed.”
He believes there are six main components of character that are also key strengths of successful leaders: enterprise vision, intellectual curiosity, selflessness, courage, humility and empathy – the last three being the most important.
Cucolo elaborated on the each topic, stating that enterprise vision is “understanding where you fit in the bigger picture” while intellectual curiosity is “the knowledge that you don’t know everything and have the discipline to seek out new knowledge.” Selflessness was described as passing on the credit, taking the blame and “being first in line for the bad deals.”
Emphasis was placed on the fourth component; the course’s theme.
To Cucolo, courage was more than “physical courage.” He considered it also to encompass moral courage, which he believes is a hard version of courage to embody.
“It’s the courage to confront a wrong,” he said, adding that it done despite any professional risk. “There is no time in service, time in grade or condition where confrontation is wrong or inappropriate. That type of moral courage is very important and has to be a part of everyone in the service.”
The fifth component, humility, “makes it easy to say ‘I made a mistake’ … and is a guardrail against human weakness; it is the opposite of the sense of entitlement.” Finally, empathy is “simply the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and think about it … You don’t feel sorry for your Soldiers, you take care of them,” Cucolo said.
These values frame character, which is important to each individual.
“Character is the essence of the ability to interact with other human beings,” Cucolo said. “How you react in situations causes others to decide whether to follow you or completely disregard you.”
“If you don’t have the moral character to be what we call a warrior Airman of character, you are going to fall short in the Air Force mission,” Cortijo added.
Cucolo and his session made an impression on the attending service members.
“The guest speaker was really interesting,” said Master Sgt. Molly Klos, 93rd Intelligence Squadron section chief of joint intelligence operations. “He was very genuine and passionate.”
She added that she enjoyed the unique perspective of a senior officer’s point of view and the personal touches Cucolo added by telling personal stories about each point and how it made him a better leader.
Staff Sgt. King, 344th Training Squadron military training leader also enjoyed listening to the guest speaker and said, “I think it was good having a retired general come here and give us his outlook on things. He was very informative and shed light on things from a different perspective. It definitively helped me develop as a leader. I will take what I learned today and apply it to my daily life.”
“His level of leadership and the manner in which he served for 35 years is very unique and not something we get to hear about. He was a major general in the Army and was in charge of joint units (composed) of thousands of enlisted members including Airmen,” Cortijo said. “I really like that we were able to hear from a senior officer what courage looks like in the enlisted force and how it is viewed by higher commissioned members.”
The next course in the series, “Resilience,” is slated in January. The courses will rotate locations between JBSA-Lackland, JBSARandolph and JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.
“This is something every enlisted member should come see at least once” Cortijo said.
Attendees are asked to register beforehand, but walk-ins are welcomed. Enlisted members may register at: https://cs3.eis.af.mil/sites/OO-ED-AE-25/enlistedcharacterdevelopmentseries/Registration/Registration.aspx.