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Aviano AB Develops Exceptional Leaders

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ericka A. Woolever
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Force leaders are often individuals who demonstrate what’s possible. They’re the individuals that deliberately invest in and develop highly skilled and professional Airmen.

 Senior Master Sgt. Jeremy Schoneboom, first sergeant of the 31st Security Force Squadron and Master Sgt. Richard Duken, first sergeant of the 57th Rescue Squadron, have firsthand knowledge of what it means to be an exceptional leader.

“The First Sergeant motto is ‘Mission First, People Always,’” said Schoneboom. “My job is to take care of the people so they can stay focused on the mission.”

As our views on life change constantly, it becomes the responsibility of today’s leaders to guide, mentor and develop the next generation of USAF Airmen.

There are various things that one must know in order to lead today’s Airmen.

“Know that Airmen today are smarter and more resourceful and can’t be raised in the Air Force the way you were,” said Duken. “Emotional intelligence is key to being a better person and leader.”

Leaders develop characteristics that help foster the environment and the people they lead.

“I believe leaders need to know when to praise and empower their members as opposed to calling them out on certain things,” said Duken. “It’s important to educate members through their mistakes and not beat them down for errors.”

Additionally, leaders in the U.S Air Force face challenges every day.

“Communication moves incredibly fast today,” said Schoneboom. “It’s not uncommon today to read about an Air Force policy change on social media before it’s officially distributed to leadership.  In order to remain relevant in our conversations with Airman we have to make time to educate ourselves on what’s going on in our Air Force. If we fail to remain relevant, our credibility is shot.”

Overall, being a leader is not always about the rank that someone wears, or the position they hold, but rather how they deliberately care for and support one another.

 “We are all leaders, even the youngest Airmen, you might not think they’re a leader but there is always an opportunity to lead,” said Duken. “Be a mentor, help make someone else’s life better. We are a family and a unique blend of individuals and we need to look out for each other.”