Whole Airman Concept: Leadership development

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Liliana Moreno
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Airmen from the 821st Contingency Response Support Squadron are using the Whole Airman Concept to find innovative ways to incorporate leadership development into their everyday squadron routine.


The Whole Airman Concept lays a foundation of service for all Airmen through three major components: leadership and job performance, significant self-improvement and base or community involvement.


The concept’s most important component is that it exemplifies the Air Force’s core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.


Last year during the Air Force Association Air Warfare symposium, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright, said, “I think the most important thing I can do for all of our commanders and for all of our Airmen is to make sure that our Airmen are well trained, well led and resilient.”


Following this concept, the 821st CRSS, also known as the Gladiators, brainstormed effective ways to help Airmen become more successful in accomplishing the Air Force mission. The programs the CRSS created establish active learning environments in the workplace and are intended to accelerate growth in thoughtful decision-making through role modeling, feedback and practice.


One of the initiatives the squadron created is a program called “Thinking Thursday.” As part of this program, members are given two hours per week to focus on individual development, such as working on furthering education goals or strengthening the five pillars of wellness: emotional, physical, spiritual, social and family.


Staff Sgt. Matthew Audet, 821st CRSS readiness equipment custodian, is currently working towards his Community College of the Air Force degree. He has been able to use the time during the program to finish school work and prepare for exams.  He applauded the squadron’s “Thinking Thursday” initiative for helping him get closer to his goal.  


“Supervisors need to show their Airmen the steps they need to take to broaden their career, both professionally and personally,” Audet said.  “For myself, at the moment, I’m focused on studying for a college-level exam. My supervisor and I talked about the details and what my goals are, and the steps I’m going to take to make that a reality.”


For Maj. Stephen Teeple, 821st CRSS assistant director of operations, he chooses to use “Thinking Thursday” to spend a few extra hours with his son.


“I am able to spend what is the best part of my son’s day with him as he is getting up and around,” Teeple said. “What I have found through this initiative is that I have a much stronger relationship with my son, and it allows me to execute the mission with greater confidence knowing that my family is in a good place.”


The squadron also started “Gladiator of the Month” program to recognize top performers giving the honorary member the opportunity to act as the squadron commander for the day.


“This program provides me with an opportunity to have great conversations with some of our young Airmen and hopefully provide some mentorship and tools for them to continue on their career,” said Lt. Col. Troy Pierce, 821st CRS commander and previous 821st CRSS commander. “It has been a truly amazing opportunity to be able to spend one-on-one time with Airmen.”


Senior Airman Nelson LaRoche, 821st CRSS aerial porter, was recognized as a “Gladiator of the Month” earlier this year. During this time, he was able to spend one-on-one time with the commander where he received personal development and mentoring for his career.


“During my day as the acting squadron commander, I sat in various briefings throughout the day and got to see the big picture of tasks that happen and occur in the wing,” LaRoche said. “It was a good experience for me to think outside of my Airman tier and see what kind of decision making, planning and coordinating goes on as a squadron commander.”


He also had the opportunity to share his Air Force history with the unit during another program called the “Gladiator Moment”. In order to learn more about the individual Airmen in the CRSS, the Gladiators are encouraged to briefly present their story during the weekly staff meeting. LaRoche said through these program initiatives, he has learned more about what it takes to become a leader and developed skills he can use in his future Air Force career.


The 821st CRSS was recently recognized by the Profession of Arms Center of Excellence and Air University Leadership Institute for their innovative leadership development programs and the unit was awarded the 2017 PACE Leadership Impact award.


“What a privilege it was to nominate the squadron and leadership team for the PACE award,” Pierce said. “Just a few of these great achievements that our leadership team has developed within the squadron has really enhanced the human capital of the entire squadron and just created a pleasant environment to work in.”