CGO Professional Development Seminar: Lessons in leadership

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Jeremy Terndrup
  • Company Grade Officer Council president
I recently had the opportunity to join 32 other company grade officers from Hurlburt and Eglin for the Hurlburt CGO Professional Development Seminar at the United States Air Force Special Operations School. Many noteworthy speakers took the time to mentor us and engage in open discussion about our personal and professional growth as junior officers, including Col. Michael Plehn, 1st Special Operations Wing commander, Lt. Col. Rebecca Vernon, 1st SOW judge advocate, and a panel of senior NCOs including Chief Master Sgt. Dexter Mitchell, 1st SOW command chief.
There are two main lessons that I learned during this seminar: take care of yourself and take care of your Airmen. I must realistically examine myself in order to determine if I am doing the right thing or not. Is my attitude right to lead? Am I humble and enthusiastic? Do I lead from the front by taking new responsibilities at work, doing professional military education and getting an advanced academic degree? Have I contributed to my own performance reports by excelling at my job, tracking detailed accomplishments, and distinguishing myself from peers through spirit and awards? I learned that leading is doing the right thing first and motivating others to do the same.

To take care of my subordinates or peers requires leadership and knowledge. During the day I gained knowledge of the enlisted development process that governs their success. For example, to promote past master sergeant means that individual will be in the top two percent of the enlisted corps as determined by their promotion board. To be competitive for this board requires hard-hitting bullets, stratification among peers, decorations, and awards such as performer of the month or quarter.

Once I know what the right thing is for my peers and subordinates to do then I can seek to motivate them. I learned that to motivate their performance requires clear communication of performance expectations. To sustain motivation requires straight, honest feedback regarding issues that need correction or improvement. Motivation in the form of disciplinary action can also help turn around negative behavior. Supervisors must become very familiar with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and how it is applied to enforce military discipline. As our Airmen excel it is our responsibility to provide them recognition and rewards such as promotable positions that carry greater responsibility.

The seminar was a great opportunity to get candid advice and tips from leaders who I respect. I am especially thankful for the Hurlburt Company Grade Officer Council who sponsored and organized the event, and to all of our speakers for offering their mentorship.

[The full list of speakers included: Col. Michael Plehn, Col. Henry Sanders, Lt. Col. Rebecca Vernon, Lt. Col. Paul Geehreng, Capt. James Blick, Chief Master Sgt. Dexter Mitchell, Chief Master Sgt. Karen Thomas, Chief Master Sgt. Joe Romeo, Chief Master Sgt. Chris Vondenstein, Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Jette, Ms. Ruthy Srun, and Ms. Nicole Whigham.]