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Living 'The Little Brown Book'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rodolfo Mireles
  • 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron
The date was June 30, 2011. I walked out of the dining facility at 11:50 p.m. and over to our multi-stop van to get a new airman battle uniform top hanging off the fan vent. As my watch struck 12:01 a.m. July 1, I took off my top and put on the one hanging in the van.

The difference between these two tops was merely the amount of blue stitched into my chevrons. I had finally, after almost a year's wait, sewed on my fourth stripe, or, as I like to think of it, my first stripe as an NCO in the Air Force.

I had now put on the stripe that would represent the first line of supervision within our NCO ranks. However, as the responsibilities that were instantly charged upon me grew, the knowledge and experience had not.

This is not to say that I wasn't prepared to take on the tasks of a newly minted staff sergeant or that I had already learned everything I will need to know. However, I had spent the last few years of my Air Force career in preparation for this milestone.

When stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., one of my mentors required me, as well as all the Airmen under his direction, to carry a copy of the smallest, but most informative Air Force instructions in publication - AFI 36-2618, "The Enlisted Force Structure," also known as "The Little Brown Book."

In reading "The Little Brown Book," I not only knew what was expected of me as an enlisted individual holding the rank of airman, but the general and specific responsibilities of every rank above me. The same person who required us to carry and learn our specific responsibilities as junior enlisted Airmen, also required us to learn the responsibilities of every rank within our enlisted force structure.

As I grew in rank throughout the airman tier, I specifically paid attention to the words written for personnel in the next tier up and applied them as much as I could to myself and my peers.

When questioned by Airmen holding the same rank as to why I would strive to incorporate the duties of an NCO, the response was simple: Read the book. Paragraph 2.1.1 of the AFI states that "Airman prepare for increased responsibilities and must ensure they are trained, qualified [and] also continue to broaden technical skills and pursue professional development". There is no better answer than paragraph 2.1.1 to the question of why you should be ready and prepared to assume your next rank in the Air Force.

As I now enter the NCO corps of not only the Air Force, but of the United States Armed Forces, I assume a new responsibility of ensuring that my subordinates develop as professionals within the profession of arms.

Five days after I had sewn on my new stripe, my flight was tasked by our supervision to look over "The Little Brown Book" to review our responsibilities as enlisted Airmen. Most Airmen are not totally immersed in the AFI as I had been until they reach their first level of professional military education.

As we were briefed to review our responsibilities, I looked at one of my subordinates who already knew her responsibilities within the squadron and nodded to her. She had a look of pride on her face because, when she moved to my section earlier this year, I encouraged her to read and live by "The Little Brown Book," just as I had at her rank.