Wearing the star: Part 2

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarad A. Denton
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
What boggles me more than how he maintains such a high level of energy with such a busy schedule, was why I came back for a second job-shadow.

It surprised Chief Master Sgt. Clifton Cole, 28th Bomb Wing command chief, too, who met me at 5 a.m., Sept. 23, in the Bellamy Fitness Center for his morning workout routine.

"Time management is the key to this job," he said, as he prepared to get in a quick workout before an early meeting with the Ellsworth Chief's Group. "People's time is precious - so I try not to keep them waiting."

We worked out separately this time - which was perfectly fine with me since I was still sore from the last workout with him. Chief Cole went to his meeting and I left to get ready for the Ellsworth 1st Sergeant's meeting and the official start to my second job-shadow of the command chief.

0730 - 1st Sergeant's Meeting

I wasn't sure what to expect from a meeting with the Ellsworth 1st Sergeants, but I was excited to see how their mission was impacted by Chief Cole's guidance and input. First Sergeants have the responsibility of advising commanders on the health, esprit de corps, professional development, discipline, recognition and overall well-being of their assigned enlisted Airmen. The topics Chief Cole addressed, such as a reinforcement of professional military education, during the meeting directly impacted those responsibilities.

"Airmen should know when they are set up for PME," he said. "They need to start the process early, especially if they have a profile which might impact their ability to attend."

Chief Cole also stressed the importance of identifying alternate Airmen to fill the PME slots which may be vacated.

"If we don't use the slots we have for PME, we may end up losing them," he said. "As leaders, we need to encourage Airmen to stay on top of the PME process and make sure all the details are addressed before they go."

In addition to discussing PME, Chief Cole also spoke about the importance of Airmen completing their Community College of the Air Force degree.

"We can't force Airmen to go after this opportunity, but we can encourage them and educate them on the benefits of having a CCAF degree," he said.

The CCAF gives Airmen the opportunity to earn college credits toward a degree in applied science, with a concentration in their career field. The benefits to actively pursuing this degree can be seen when Airmen generate their package for Senior Airman below the zone, or they are starting the process to enter the senior non-commissioned offer ranks.

"We want Airmen to take full advantage of all the opportunities the Air Force can offer them," Chief Cole said. "Having an education that goes beyond a high school diploma will help them in whatever career they choose to pursue."

After stressing the importance of PME and a CCAF degree, Chief Cole wrapped up the meeting by thanking the first sergeants for the work they do for Ellsworth's Airmen.

"It's really amazing to come here and see a room full of 1st sergeants ready to take care of our Airmen," he said. "I know it's a thankless task sometimes, but all of you do it with professionalism and distinction."

0800 - Airman Leadership School

After leaving the first sergeant's meeting, the next stop for Chief Cole was the airman leadership school. Today was the first day for the Airmen preparing to join the ranks of the non-commissioned tier, and they were met with a briefing by the command chief.

"I retire December 3, after 30 years in the Air Force," he said. "It's been great. I would encourage you to take advantage of everything the Air Force can offer you."

Chief Cole also encouraged the students to learn from each other during their time at ALS.

"Having diverse career fields at ALS is good when it comes to learning more about the Air Force as a whole."

Along with learning from other career fields, Chief Cole challenged the ALS class to control their own destiny.

"It's all about knowing what you want to do both inside and outside of your career," he said. "I am by no means special; I just have a special position - which I achieved through a combination of mentorship from others, hard work, education and goal-setting."

Chief Cole said once the Airmen graduated ALS they would take their first steps into the supervision of other Airmen. He said it was important to sit people down, go over expectations, their strengths and opportunities and enforce standards.

"Once you make staff sergeant it stops being about you," he said. "You need to get out there and ensure you are taking care of the Airmen."

He said taking care of Airmen should transcend the personal recognition associated with doing a good job.

"We will always try to recognize people for doing a good job," he said. "But, it's really not just about the awards or rewards - so don't get caught up in that system. Go out there and make a positive difference."

After sharing his insights, Chief Cole concluded the briefing by reminding the ALS Airmen to always lead their Airmen by example, and remain professional at all times.

"Leaders aren't born, they are groomed," he said. "Make sure you are leading by example, because people are always watching."

Following the ALS briefing, Chief Cole took several one-on-one meetings, checked e-mails, ate lunch, attended Col. Trent Edwards', 28th Mission Support Group commander, commander's call and convened a Senior Airman BTZ board. As the duty day was winding down for most Airmen on base Chief Cole was on his way to the First-term Airman Center to give a briefing to the graduating class.

1600 - FTAC Briefing

"I'm proud of the fact I was able to stick with the Air Force for 30 years," he said to FTAC class. "It's like a relationship: there are good times and bad times. It's up to us to push through it and make the best of the tough times."

Chief Cole said he enjoyed what he has done in the Air Force, and asked the Airmen a question he hoped would stay with them through their careers.

"Do you control your destiny?"

He said Airmen's careers will start taking off after they receive reviews from supervision on their enlisted performance reports - especially if they are good ones.

"If you get a good EPR, people see they can trust you," Chief Cole said. "But, it's up to you to earn that rating. You have to work hard and take ownership of your career. Do it for yourself, your family and for the Air Force."

Chief Cole reminded the Airmen that the choice to serve was theirs and they should take full advantage of it.

"Neither you or I were drafted into the Air Force," he said. "This is a choice, so make the most of it."

He concluded his briefing, as he concluded many before, by thanking the Airmen for their service. After 30 years of making the most of his choices in the Air Force I can only think of one thing left to say.

Thank you, Chief.