PME key to unlocking a successful career

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- In my 22 years in the military, one of the things I truly enjoyed was attending courses to enhance my leadership abilities. I have always been a strong advocate of professional military education and professional development courses, both as a military member who desired to attend as well as a first sergeant who encourages his Airmen to take every opportunity to expand on their "toolbox" of leadership skills. It is these courses that make our Airmen better supervisors and leaders, and that, in turn, will make the Air Force mission that much easier to complete.

Many people believe the main purpose of PME is to fill the necessary block to obtain the appropriate grade; although it is a factor, it is not the true purpose of PME. Front line supervisors have been molding their Airmen since they arrived in their duty sections to prepare them for leadership positions by first ensuring they are technically competent in their AFSC. As they become competent and obtain their five skill level, the supervisor challenges their troops with increased responsibilities to boost their confidence and expand on their acquired knowledge in preparation to assume a leadership role in the future. Although the supervisor begins setting up the "toolbox" for their Airmen, PME is the arena where Airmen get a better understanding of what is in the toolbox and how they can utilize them in various scenarios. PME does not focus on making Airmen better technicians; they focus on making Airmen better leaders. At PME, Airmen meet other members in various AFSCs with one thing in mind; becoming better supervisors. Things like improving communication skills, counseling scenarios, enlisted force structure, and Air Force history are some of the many areas that are covered in the various levels of PME.

While PME is important, the concept of professional development courses has helped with the molding of our future enlisted. FTAC, Airman, NCO, and SNCO seminars are vital because they bridge the gaps between PME. These courses not only provide our Airmen with additional knowledge and skillsets to be better leaders and Airmen, the students in these courses have the opportunity to interact with many different leadership levels to discuss issues, concerns and views they have. The crosstalk between the leadership and the students has been phenomenal; many of the key leaders of Team Seymour enjoy taking time out of their schedule (myself included) to interact with Airmen at all levels. The feedback has been exceptional.

PME and professional development courses are the arenas where we hone the skills of our future leaders. I personally challenge every junior Airman to seek out these courses and take advantage of these opportunities when they are afforded. For those of you who are supervisors, you need to ensure you afford your troops the chance to expand their toolbox as well as making sure you expand your own toolbox of knowledge. Unit commanders should do a pulse check on the professional development of their troops. The larger their toolbox of knowledge, the stronger your units become. And the AF mission will succeed because we all took the time to ensure our people have the right tools to be successful leaders.