Well that’s just bull****! I’m getting out!

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- When I was a technical sergeant I overheard a master sergeant voice disgust with his leadership. He stood in the squadron snack bar just going off on how he got screwed over. His frustrations revolved around the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy (SNCOA) correspondence course and the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degree. He didn't have them complete and apparently his performance report reflected this poorly. I'll never forget how furious he was. Back then, I didn't understand the issue but I've become well attuned.

Although a relatively young service, throughout its history the Air Force has relied on an enlisted corps that is well trained, educated and professional. Nearly since its inception, the Air Force has put significant emphasis on professional military education (PME) and off-duty education. In fact, one of the greatest successes for the enlisted corps came in 1972 when the establishment of the Community College of the Air Force provided enlisted Airmen the opportunity to earn an associate's degree. The CCAF degree and PME are just two of many ways that will help ensure the enlisted corps remains well trained, educated and professional.

Over the years, I've observed a trend develop with completion of CCAF and PME. Many believe CCAF and SNCOA are two things SNCOs complete to secure senior rater endorsement on their performance report. You'll often hear people refer to them as "square fillers." Some Airmen mistakenly think that if they're not interested in future advancement, completion of these is unimportant; however, regardless if an Airman has 5 months or 5 years left in service, completing CCAF and PME should be a priority, and it's much more than a square filler.

Completing a CCAF degree and PME are basic expectations. Not only are these expectations captured well in The Enlisted Force Structure, the core value of Excellence in All We Do directs Airmen to "develop a sustained passion for the continuous improvement." Senior NCOs should complete these to develop and cultivate leadership skills and military professionalism not because it might get them senior rater endorsement. Senior NCOs are expected to be positive role models, to promote and encourage these developmental opportunities to the Airmen they serve with. Trying to encourage an Airman to complete the basics when they haven't, lacks credibility. The expectation is to lead by example, and if SNCOs don't it should be reflected accordingly, yet I review many performance reports of SNCOs without their CCAF and/or PME say things like: "exceeds expectations", "strong leader", "can accomplish anything." It sounds like we're talking out of both sides of our mouth, or have misplaced loyalties.

Let's take a unit where perhaps 10% of the SNCOs aren't fulfilling basic expectations and the naïve supervisor says, "I know they're not meeting standards but I don't want to hassle them, I feel loyal to them." That's not loyalty! Ninety percent of the SNCOs are doing it right; those are who you need to be loyal to.

Our very best people, possibly referred to as a "firewall 5", wouldn't require convincing ("arm twisting", "volun-told") to complete these expectations, would they? Our "truly among the best" SNCOs would have these basic expectations as well as several others complete in a timely manner, wouldn't they? Currently, the average CCAF graduate is a SSgt with 10.6 years in service. I'd venture to guess it was roughly about the same when I was a technical sergeant. So it baffles me as to why the master sergeant I saw, who had 18 years of service, got so upset when he wasn't considered to "clearly exceed" this expectation.

As leaders we get what we tolerate, and we should have little acceptance for Airmen who don't meet basic expectations. Looking back, I've concluded that somewhere in that master sergeant's leadership chain was a person that didn't tolerate him not meeting basic expectations. I often wonder how many people have been furious with me but I must admit I'm not concerned. I know I'm being loyal to what the Air Force expects and I'm ensuring the Airmen who progress to higher leadership levels are prepared and have the credibility to lead.

Bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.