Five Things to Learn as a New Air Force Officer

You find yourself in charge of a new flight and don’t know what you should be focusing on. How do you provide value when everyone knows you’re only going to be there for a year at best? Here are the five things I focus on when I move to a new job. The following steps will help you focus on what you need to learn in order to be a valuable member of your flight and squadron. These steps don’t have to be done in order but each step provides context for the next one.

Step 1: Learn Who Your “Customer” Is

It’s “customer” and not customer because many organizations can’t shop elsewhere if another organization isn’t meeting their needs. You still need to empathize with those who rely on you and your flight since they can’t shop around. Knowing who your customer is will also let you know who you need to start building relationships with.

There are two types of customers: external and internal. External customers are those organizations outside of your squadron who rely on you and your flight to get their job done. As an example, a Logistics Readiness Squadron will have the Maintenance Squadron as a big customer since the Maintenance Squadron relies on the Materiel Management flight to manage and store parts, the Fuels Flight to deliver fuel to aircraft, and the Deployment and Distribution flight to receive and deliver their parts.

Internal customers are those who rely on you within your own unit in order to get their job done. Knowing who your internal customers are will help you build effective relationships in your unit because they can see you are trying to help them. To paraphrase Neil Gaiman, you want to be good at your job, be on time, and be easy to work with.

Step 2. Learn What Information is Presented Outside Your Flight and Why

Understand what information about your flight is being tracked and reported. The best place to start is by reviewing your squadron staff meeting slides. More than likely the squadron tracks the enlisted performance reports (EPR), decorations, and awards for Airmen assigned to your flight. EPRs go off of the Static Closeout Date (SCOD) now and it is easier to track since you’ll know well ahead of time when they are due. Tracking decorations can be more difficult as they are normally tied to someone’s departure from the unit. Units will have quarterly and annual awards that routinely come up well quarterly and annually. We’ll help you with those in future articles but make sure you know when these things are due as they are vital for your Airmen’s careers.

The staff meeting is also where leadership will show the status of taskers assigned to your flight via the Task Management Tool (TMT). A common frustration for units are last-minute taskers. This complaint is warranted in most cases but if you start nailing down these steps you and your flight will be ready to respond when needed.

Step 3. Learn What Regulations Govern Your Processes

Now that you know who your “customer” is and what information is tracked about you and your team you can start reviewing the regulations to see where things can be improved. Start with AFI 1-2, Commander’s Responsibilities. Why read something for a squadron commander?

Here’s three reasons why:

  1. It acts as an excellent checklist for future inspections.
  2. Even flight commanders are commanders, so you can adjust the AFI to make it applicable at your level.
  3. It outlines what the squadron CC is responsible for and since you’re going to be working for one you can help provide more value.

Step 4. Learn Each Person’s Role In The Flight (Organization)

You need to learn what each member of your flight or organization does depending on the level of leadership you are at. You should know this because then you’ll know who to ask when you have questions. Pro-tip: Before asking someone a question make sure you do a little research on your own first. This is part of the reason why I have this as Step 4. 😁

Step 5. Learn About Your Organization’s Biggest Challenge

Most non-rated support AFSCs have lots of different specialties to learn about so your commander is likely going to move you every six months to a year. In this timeframe, you can only really focus on improving or implementing one or two high-value changes. Learn about your unit’s biggest challenge and help recruit your peers and subordinates to help solve it. If you’ve done the steps in order you’ll be armed with plenty of knowledge.

Wrap Up

Yes, you’ll have to attend staff meetings, ops meetings, production meetings, commander’s calls, but I recommend you make these steps a priority. I would also recommend you seek out some SNCOs in your unit to help you learn these five things.

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