EUGENE, Ore. -- With the arrival of spring, many Airmen of the Oregon Air National Guard took advantage of the improved weather by getting out of town, taking part in a variety of professional development events during a jam-packed, three-day weekend, April 19-21, in the ‘Emerald City’ of Eugene, Oregon.
The confluence of the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers made for a natural midpoint and mid-state get-together site for the 142nd and 173rd Fighter Wings, based at opposite ends of the State of Oregon, located in Portland and Klamath Falls respectfully.
“This is an excellent opportunity for both wing’s members to meet and take advantage of a variety of activities and yet, not be too far from home at the same time,” noted Chief Master Sgt. Mark McDaniel, 173rd Fighter Wing command chief master sergeant, during the Chief’s Advisory Council (CAC) meeting on the first day of the weekend gathering.
McDaniel and other associate Oregon Air National Guard chief master sergeants had the opportunity to interact and discuss a wide range of topics with Command Sgt. Maj. Robert C. Foesch, the current Oregon National Guard Command Senior Enlisted Leader (CSEL), and with retired Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) James W. Hotaling, the former Chief Master Sergeant of the Air National Guard.
Topics important to the enlisted force ranged from Enlisted Performance Reports (EPRs) to joint training opportunities and a wide variety of base related issues were discussed. Chief Hotaling, who helped develop the first EPR’s for Air National Guardsmen, offered first-hand feedback during the CAC session.
“The EPR is important for a number of reasons but first and foremost it’s letting your Airman know where they stand currently, while getting that critical feedback as they grow within the ‘Profession of Arms,’” Hotaling said.
Another key topic was enlisted Primary Military Education (PME). The debate over distance learning and academy schools was a pertinent topic, with the recent announcement ending the distance learning prerequisite for in-residency attendance at the Airman Leadership School (ALS) and with the likelihood of other changes forthcoming with the Noncommissioned Officer Academy (NCOA) and Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy (SNCOA). The news regarding NCOA and SNCOA was made official by Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright on April 26, 2018.
As the senior enlisted leader for the Oregon Air National Guard, Chief Master Sgt. Ulana M. Cole stressed to the group that having the opportunity for all the chief master sergeants in the state to assemble at the same time and place is important.
“As senior members of our organization, we need to set the example,” she remarked to her fellow peers. “It’s critical with changes in the Air National Guard and within our state, like the new tuition assistance bill, that issues affecting our Airmen and their families remains our highest priority.”
The chief’s meetings, completed on day one, helped set the tone and momentum for the balance of the weekend. The agenda for Friday and Saturday featured a series of Enlisted Professional Development workshops with Oregon Air National Guard Commander Brig. Gen. James R. Kriesel giving the opening address.
“Let me ask you…what’s the toughest job in the U.S. Military?” a question Kriesel promptly asked to the room of Airmen, just settling down in their seats with hot coffee in hand. “It’s a drill-status senior leader, no doubt about it. And that’s why you’re here, because most of you already know that being a leader means always doing more and leaning forward.”
Programs like the Enlisted Professional Development workshops and other non-drill weekend training periods take an added effort and extra time to prioritize for Guardsmen. As quickly as Kriesel gave his remarks, Chief Hotaling imparted some of his personal observations, dating back to his time with the Oregon Air Guard, all the way forward to his last assignment as the Command Chief Master Sergeant to the Director of the Air National Guard.
“All of you are here because you’re doing the job and enjoying it,” said Hotaling. “It’s having the right attitude as a leader; it’s looking at the half-full glass, and being a ‘Victor not a Victim’ when overcoming challenges.”
As the morning seminars ended, the attention shifted to the 23rd Annual Oregon Air National Guard Awards Banquet. In past years, the event was held in the evening but taking a break from tradition, it was hosted as a luncheon. The awards banquet allowed all service members to interact with each other over lunch and reflect on the morning’s highpoints. It also set aside an opportunity to acknowledge significant achievements and honors by Oregon Airmen over the past year in a variety of categories.
“Just being able to get away from home … from some of the normal work situations and day-to-day surroundings, helps to absorb what is being offered this weekend,” remarked Master Sgt. Hannah Mosebach, quality assurance manager with the 142nd Comptroller Flight. “I like the atmosphere, both with the training and meeting new people (from other units) is always worthwhile.”
By Saturday, the workshops focused on leadership imperatives and inspiring trust. The sessions were presented by the 550th Fighter Squadron staff from Luke Air Force Base, assigned at Kingsley Field, Oregon.
Emphasizing the importance of team building, Master Sgt. Colette Roe defined some of the key characteristics that make up success groups, “To be part of a highly functioning team, it begins with getting to know each other. This is where trust begins and is critical to every relationship.”
In describing a variety of themes on trust, such as “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs,” Roe noted that engagement is essential and constant, especially as people enter and develop in an organization.
“We see this in the military; as new members, that first step of being seen and accepted into the group is central, and as they grow over time in their careers, inclusion and empowerment take shape as they become trusted leaders.”
As the workshops concluded by mid-day, the final events of the weekend turned to the evening’s ceremonies; the “Order of the Minuteman” ceremony and the annual Oregon National Guard Military Ball.
The “Order of the Minuteman” ceremony distinguished two Oregon National Guardsmen that held the top enlisted positions in the Air and Army National Guard, nearly at the same time. Chief Master Sgt. (ret.) James Hotaling and Command Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Brunk Conely, respectfully were honored for their service to Oregon and the nation. Putting back on the uniform one last time, both top senior leaders were given one final acknowledgment for their long, distinguished careers.
Reflecting on the weekend’s activities and being esteemed for the award, Chief Hotaling emphasized the unique honor it has been to serve in the military, “I miss it nearly every day. I tell people who serve now; if you’re going to wear the nation’s uniform, earn it every day, because you’ll miss it too when you finally leave or retire.”