Every Airman has a voice

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. GARY LILLEY
  • 56th Civil Engineer Squadron
While Gen. Mark Welsh III was here at Luke Air Force Base, he discussed the importance of listening to your young Airmen, and making sure they feel empowered to have open dialogue and share ideas within their chain of command.

As the NCO in charge of my section, I took General Welsh's words to heart and encouraged Airmen in my section to voice their ideas and have open lines of communication. This was something I learned over time.

In the past 15 years and four assignments, I have had the privilege of working and being stationed with someone who I would consider to be a true friend, Master Sgt. Ricardo Vera. We first met while working in the electrical shop at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, where as a senior airman I was assigned to sponsor and train Airman Vera, who was coming to us straight out of technical training at Sheppard AFB, Texas. Being apprehensive and nervous at first, I put together an extensive, yet rigid, training program, setting up goals and milestones for Vera to achieve along the way. I was determined to execute this program as planned.

Sitting down with Vera, I laid out my expectations and went over every detail of his new training program and how we would accomplish his upgrade training, leaving no room for deviation. One day while completing a work order to install electrical outlets in offices that were currently occupied, Vera expressed the desire to complete the assigned tasking differently than what I had first planned. Without listening to what he actually said, I directed Vera outside to counsel him on both the importance of his training and professionalism for wanting to discuss an alternative to the work being accomplished in front of the customers. At the end of our one-sided conversation, it was clear to Vera that he was not free to share his ideas.

We finished the day in relative silence. Later that night, I had time to reflect on the encounter, and something clicked in my head. I realized Vera actually had a very good idea, but I was so consumed by my own plan, I never allowed for his input. The next day I set time aside to address my late-night revelation and learned Vera was a very intelligent Airman with several ideas he wanted to share. It wasn't long before I was seeking out Vera to engage his technical expertise and get his thoughts on numerous subjects. From these conversations, our friendship grew, and we both became better for it.

Our new enlistees in this millennium are filled with great ideas. Many of them have already attained their degrees, learned a skill or both, in some cases. As supervisors, it's our duty to guide them in the right direction, but we must also strive to bring out our Airmen's full potential.

As an Air Force how much more can we accomplish once every Airman has a voice?