Develop yourself for the future

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David B. Gaskill
  • 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron commander
The recent 55th Wing Commander's Conference, offered commander's insight into the direction of our great Air Force.

One of the many topics discussed by wing leadership during the conference was the force-shaping initiative announced by the Air Force Personnel Center. We discussed its impact and attempted to determine what criteria may be used to define who would be involuntarily separated and how those separations would affect mission accomplishment.

We won't be able to answer these questions until all force-shaping actions are complete, however, we can assume that the initiatives will affect some 55th WG personnel and tough decisions will be made.

As professional Airmen, we have an obligation to prepare ourselves for the unexpected and that includes the results force shaping may bring. That means taking advantage of tools provided to us through all venues. One of those tools is professional reading, which provides lifelong learning that allows us to improve ourselves every day. Retired Gen. Ronald Fogleman, former Air Force chief of staff, created the Chief of Staff Professional Reading Program in 1996. The program strives to provide a common frame of reference to help all officers, enlisted and civilians, be better prepared and more effective advocates of air and space power.

Recently, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz released the latest version of this professional development tool. In his words, professional reading is a "valuable way for all Airmen to further their professional education and augment their leadership skills," and, "in equal measure to physical training, continues to be vital to maintaining our initiative and our preparation for the future."

Professional reading is also a low-cost investment in your future that helps develop critical thinking skills, something all Airmen should perfect. Critical thinking is extremely valuable in all professions. These skills are developed through formal and informal education. Informal education is developed in the office, on the flightline or in the aircraft. Through repetitive actions, we learn techniques and procedures that are more efficient. Applying these techniques and procedures properly requires a complete understanding of what the job is and how it affects the mission.

Formal education is a professional obligation. Every Airman must make a personal choice to fulfill this obligation which can be met with career development courses, advanced degrees or developmental education commensurate with rank. Failing to meet this obligation can influence a separation board or commander's stratification decision, ultimately affecting an individual's career longevity or promotion competitiveness.

Force-shaping is a fact of Air Force life and will assuredly bring change as world events unfold but the knowledge we develop will expand our perspectives, as well as expose different views and interpretations stimulating healthy debate. Questioning how we do business allows our service to evolve and is a hallmark of significant progress.

Regardless of what force-shaping brings, we as a service must continue to evolve. The impact of these decisions will be felt throughout the Air Force. Those selected for early retirement will depart the Air Force with the experience and knowledge acquired over more than 20 years of service. Replacing these experts won't be easy, but the Air Force will continue to manage its day-to-day activities. Relearning old lessons will make some days more painful than others, but we will rely on critical thinking skills to solve problems and make the mission successful.

World events and politics will continue to define our military missions and force-shaping requirements. As professionals, it's our obligation to learn and evolve as a service to meet these challenges. To do this, we must utilize individual initiatives guided by critical thinking skills. Professional development through all forms of education enhances our ability to maintain a competitive edge and complacency is our worst enemy.

I encourage all Airmen to challenge themselves and take the time to fulfill their professional obligation. The knowledge gained will better position all of us for future endeavors.

For more information about professional reading programs, click on the links below.

CSAF Professional Reading Program

Navy Professional Reading Program

Army Professional Reading List

Marine Corps Professional Reading Program

Coast Guard Reading List

Joint Forces Staff College Commandant's Professional Reading List

National Defense University Library Professional Military Reading List