Force Development: Leadership and Growth

  • Published
  • By Col. Troy Havener
  • 144th Fighter Wing

Happy 2022 Griffins! January is a great time to refocus on what is important, so it is a privilege to write about one of the 144 FW Focus Areas—Force Development. This reflection allows us to vector our efforts for the upcoming year.

The term “Force Development” conjures up different concepts in the mind, so it is helpful to consider what “Force Development” actually is. It is the effort to develop “the Force,” which is made up of individuals and teams. Therefore, developing individuals to be the best they can be personally and professionally develops the teams that collectively represent the “Force.” With that in mind, individual growth and development is a high priority in which leaders at all echelons must invest!

What is the desired outcome of Force Development?  There are many ways to articulate an answer to this broad question. Here is my best answer: A well-developed force is comprised of individuals who are functionally proficient, continually growing, and able to integrate into a variety of teams in a way that provides competent mission contribution, positive impact toward continuous improvement, and unified teamwork. Well-developed individuals are always striving to learn, to improve, to teach, and to be better every day than the day before in some skill or attribute.

Opportunities for education, training, and experience all contribute to Force Development and are available to Airmen. Many educational opportunities are provided by institutional entities within the USAF, ANG, and California National Guard.  These opportunities, such as ALS, NCOA, CAFDC, SOS, and others, are invaluable! Every Airman enrolled in these courses should embrace the value of the content and the opportunity to gain perspective from classmates and instructors. Every Griffin should also know that, when enrolled in these courses, her or his engagement contributes to the collective value of the course for everyone.

Additionally, other development opportunities are available through broadening experiences or special duty assignments, which include recruiters, 1st sergeants, and staff roles. These experiences are especially valuable to develop perspectives that contribute to effective leadership within and across functional areas.

In addition to the education, training, and experience provided by the USAF and ANG, I believe that the most effective, continuous development happens at the wing, unit, and shop level. Significant Force Development opportunities are available at each local role.

Individuals. Individuals must embrace responsibility for personal and professional growth. I adamantly recommend every Airman pursue at least one development opportunity during every non-deployment year. These may include attending a school, completing PME, taking a short course, participating in an exchange, or leading a cross-functional project.

Of course, institutionally-offered education or experiences may not be always be available, and mission requirements may not allow an ideal sequence of developmental positions and assignments. Regardless of these realities, individuals should strive to continuously improve, adopt an attitude that welcomes feedback and constructive criticism, and make clear to supervisors their intent and desire to grow. Individuals must develop personal habits, such as reading or listening to positive material for growth, or commit to practicing skills to address known weakness. It is also important for individuals to identify, interact, and learn from the people around them who endeavor to maximize their potential!

Leaders. Leaders develop the force. I do not mean only those in positions with titles indicative of formally established leadership—I mean leaders at all levels. Team leads, shop chiefs, flight leads, informal leaders and formally established leaders. Leaders should be deliberate in seeking ways to help those around them develop personally and professionally.  They should be willing to provide feedback, teach, demonstrate a task, and provide a vector to needed resources for skill development. Development-focused leaders lead with the intent to develop those around them to be the best they can be.

Commanders. Force Development is a core tenet of the “Leading People” responsibility for commanders as established in AFI 1-2, which strengthens the idea that commanders must have a development mindset for the people in their command. Furthermore, effective Commanders seek to develop leaders who develop leaders. They also continuously seek development themselves, setting the example of prioritizing personal growth. Commanders do not ask, “Who wants to do this?” in reference to a development opportunity. Instead, they deliberately seek to compel individuals in their command to engage in such opportunities.

Additionally, commanders drive a development mindset that inspires subordinate leaders to think critically about every Airman, the type of development that Airman needs, and the opportunities for that Airman to grow.

GDC. The Griffin Development Council brainstorms, innovates, and coordinates cross-functional force development efforts for 144th FW members. The GDC advises commanders regarding development methods, and coordinates with external agencies for opportunities that can benefit Airmen. GDC membership is open to all ranks and AFSCs. All are encouraged to participate! See details in the weekly announcement distribution, or use the “Ask the Chief” function on the 144th FW smartphone app for more information.

Raters. Every Airman has a rater.  The rater’s responsibility is to provide feedback, monitor performance, continue providing feedback, and document performance in a performance report (an EPR or OPR). Raters should embrace the critical role they play for individual Airmen development, and they should provide thorough Airman Comprehensive Assessments to communicate strengths and weaknesses and to equip Airmen with tools for development of Airman Leadership Qualities.

Supervisors. Supervisors may or may not be raters, but their role should be embraced in the same way. Those who supervise should have a mindset of teaching, mentoring, and developing their personnel.

Mentors. Mentors can be formally assigned or informal, and a mentor-mentee relationship can be for a short period of time or last for decades. Regardless, I recommend that every Airman consider having a mentor, being a mentor, and seeking peer-mentors. To establish a mentorship relationship, an Airman can use a variety of USAF-provided online tools to connect, or an Airman can informally establish the mentorship relationship through discussion with a respected fellow Griffin. To be a mentor, an Airman should observe others and identify who they can advise, assist, encourage, and help develop. Peer-mentors are oftentimes very effective too, as they are at the same career stage. Given that we all possess strengths and weaknesses, the strengths of our peers can complement our weaknesses and help us develop. To learn more about the developing 144th FW mentoring program, interested Griffins are encouraged check content updates that will be posted on the wing's app.

The 144th Fighter Wing Vision is to be a premier, professional team of warriors that is diverse, inclusive, connected, and relentlessly improving to serve nation and state. It is through Force Development that we will solidify our status as a “premier, professional team.” It is through Force Development that will ensure that our team is “diverse and inclusive.” Effective implementation of the Force Development roles discussed above will ensure that we remain “connected, and relentlessly improving.”

In conclusion, I challenge each of you to commit. Commit to developing. Commit to seeing and focusing on the positive value in every education, training, and experience opportunity. Commit to fulfilling the roles you play as a supervisor, rater, mentor, leader, or commander. Commit to seeking and accepting feedback.

It’s a pleasure to be developing with you!  Take advantage of all the development opportunities drill has to offer!