Deliberately dedicating to development

Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan -- Fellow Expeditionary Airmen, I'd like to dedicate some time talking about you, and ask that you focus on a little self improvement.

You're here, away from home and concentrating on the mission, but there's some downtime and you get to choose how you'll spend that time. At the beginning of this year I challenged Airmen at my home station to work on deliberate career development and I think most of us have that opportunity here as well. Career development, or building and shaping your career, requires some thought and planning, it's not something you want to leave to chance. Think about your future; what would you like to be doing in a year? What about three years from now? Five years, ten years? Many of us plan to stay in the Military and hope to get promoted. Hope is great, but let's talk about planning for it and developing ourselves to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. One way to get there is by setting goals.

Famed New York Yankees catcher, U.S. Navy Veteran and highly quotable Yogi Berra said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." Yes, I suppose that's true. So look at where you'd like to be, then set goals and milestones to help get you there. Your goals should be clear, measureable and achievable. They will serve as signs and markers along your path that let you know you're getting close to your desired destination and help with course corrections along the way. Once you've set goals, take action on them, you need to commit to the work required to meet them. It's not important where you start, it's where you finish that's important.

So how do we set goals? How do you figure out how to get where you'd like to be years from now? Many goals you can establish for yourself, but you can and should get feedback from your supervisor and/or mentor. I'll offer you a few clues here that may help you. I recommend you pick a couple things you'd like to work on and then get to work.

Are you in or ready to start upgrade training? Your career development course material will get you there if you commit the effort and study hard. Bonus; for most career fields this is the same material you'll use for promotion testing. Study hard and take good notes. Coworkers and supervisors in your career field can help coach and explain some of the more difficult material and in most cases you'll find they are willing to help you. If not, all the more reason to find a good mentor.

Have you completed all the professional military education required for your next rank? If you are currently enrolled in a PME correspondence course you can test here at Kandahar Airfield, see the personnel support for contingency operations office test control officer. If you're eligible and not yet enrolled, set that goal for home station. Technical sergeants can now enroll in the senior noncommissioned officer PME correspondence course and doing so is a great way to get a jump on your professional development. CDCs and PME are important as you progress in the Air Force, but not the only things to focus on. Many of us list "education" as one of the reasons we joined the military in the first place.

How are you doing with your education? Have you finished your Community College of the Air Force degree yet? The CCAF degree is part of the minimum requirement to compete for senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant, so knock that out early. Don't wait until you are a master sergeant; all of us can benefit from an associate's degree. Having the CCAF degree in your Air Force specialty is part of making you a career field expert. Set the goal for what you'd like to achieve and take action. Get a CCAF and then focus on a bachelor's degree so you'll be ready to compete in the job market once you leave the military. Advanced education makes you even more competitive as a prospective employee and will help you gain earning power. The Kandahar Education Center offers many classes right here, has counselors waiting to help you and representatives from two well known universities in their building, right next to the boardwalk. Stop by and see what they have to offer, then get studying.

How about developing your leadership skills? We have some great opportunities here on Kandahar with the various professional organizations; Kandahar First Four, Focus 5/6, Top III and company grade officer organizations. These organizations serve to support our health, morale and welfare, and professional development at the installation level. There are other professional organizations that support us at the national level. Each of these offer opportunities to strengthen leadership, public speaking and organizational skills, and are a great way to be involved with your peers while helping people across the base. Each organization benefits from a diverse group of Airmen at its core. Attend a meeting and get involved.

Not interested in those, or maybe you're well on your way already? How about developing yourself physically? We have a great assortment of gyms here with equipment that supports nearly any fitness plan. Many of us have a desire to get fit, increase endurance and strength or maybe lose a little weight. Our fitness centers are a great place to do just that. Again, set some goals and get out there. Today is a great day to start.

We've all heard about how the Air Force continuously works to evaluate Airmen on the "whole-person concept" and each of the above ideas can help you develop, but don't forget about your spiritual development. I'm not talking about religion, many of us follow a particular religion, but all of us are spiritual beings. Take a little time and reflect on your beliefs; maybe you'd benefit from setting goals in this area as well?

There are many ways to develop ourselves and most of us would like to do a little self improvement. My message here is to start now, don't wait until later or until you return from this deployment. Seize the moment and set some goals, then get to work. It's your career, take responsibility for it and make the most of it. Aim high, be all you can be...prepare yourself and you'll be ready whether that's a chance for promotion, when you step out of the military or some other prospect. As singer and songwriter Jackson Brown said, "Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor."

I challenge you to set a few goals and work to deliberately develop yourself. Meeting your goals can make you a better Airman and give you a sense of accomplishment in addition to the work we are doing here in Afghanistan. Each of us plays a critical role here and our efforts come together to make the mission happen every day at Kandahar Airfield. Thanks for what you do.