Spangdahlem community focuses on professional development

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The U.S. Air Force continues to provide America with airpower capable of global vigilance, reach and power.

Operating in today's fiscally constrained environment has taken its toll on the Airmen and daily operations across the force. Air Force leadership must maintain and sustain a force that can see, supply or strike any point on the planet. But with the reduced budget, something had to give.

Tough decisions were made, programs were cut and manpower is currently being reduced.

Now, Airmen must find ways to make themselves relevant in a lean, high-speed military power. That's why members of the Spangdahlem community created the "Saber Sharpening Initiative," a program designed to provide comprehensive professional development to Airmen of all ranks, positions and backgrounds. "Sabers" is a term used to identify the total force of the 52nd Fighter Wing.

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Garo, 52nd Operations Support Squadron first sergeant and program founder, said that professional development and mentorship at every level can empower Airmen and increase their stake in the Air Force mission. He encourages supervisors to take more time to deliberately develop their subordinates.

"It's imperative that we paint a strategic image for our Airmen so they can understand why they do what they do," Garo said. "Everyone brings a different perspective to the table, and they may have a better idea of how to do something than the current one."

To meet that end, Garo and a team of NCOs created the initiative. Their team focuses on broadening the scope of developmental opportunities at Spangdahlem and delivering dynamic mentorship sessions.

The latest session, entitled "Inside the Chief's Office," featured U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. James Davis, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa command chief, addressing audience questions about current Air Force topics such as budget cuts, manpower issues and social-media professionalism.

The "Saber Sharpening Initiative" team organized the event to mirror a fireside chat, creating an informal environment to share formal answers.

"Stay true to yourselves and stay true to your own values," Davis said. "The true test and the true measure of a man or a woman is really going to be if you're asked to transition (out of the Air Force) what will you say at that point? Will you continue to perform the mission as it's supposed to be performed?"

Davis is the senior enlisted advisor to the USAFE-AFAFRICA commander on all matters pertaining to Europe and Africa's U.S. enlisted force, which totals more than 21,000 people. He oversees the readiness, training, professional development and effective utilization of these Airmen -- a task that provides Davis a unique perspective on leadership.

"I'm asking you to stay in the game," Davis said regarding the many sequestration and force management questions he answered during the March 28 event. "Don't give up on the U.S. Air Force. Don't give up on the U.S. military."

Some of today's generation of Airmen have lost the ability to communicate face-to-face, Garo said. It is important for leadership to have these down-to-Earth discussions about the future of the Air Force in a setting where the audience feels comfortable to interact with the guest speaker.

"It was pretty entertaining and easier to retain the information rather than at a mandatory briefing," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Charles Cruz, 52nd Communications Squadron event attendee and Yigo, Guam, native. "It was good information in the end, because the audience asked questions I didn't even think of. You also get to know your leaders a little better with these events as opposed to just seeing them once a quarter at a commander's call."

Davis ended the session by reminding the audience that the USAFE-AFAFRICA leadership team will continue to advocate for their people, even during times of force reshaping.

"That's the only reason I exist," said Davis about his role in professional development. "The only reason is for our people. The only reason I'm still in the military is because of you all - our Airmen."

The "Inside the Chief's Office" event served as just one of the sessions that Garo and his team are preparing for Spangdahlem members. They intend to provide a developmental opportunity every quarter, all with differing leadership philosophies.

Garo said the information garnered from these opportunities will be beneficial to Airmen forever.

With the Air Force reshaping its force now and possibly again in the future, Garo said he wants Airmen to be prepared, whether as a service member now or as a civilian later.