Special- duty assignments are a catalyst for success

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Troy Coville
  • 305th Maintenance Operations Squadron
Are you looking to enhance your promotion opportunities? Would you like to take on increased responsibility? Interested in volunteering for a controlled tour to add some stability to your life? If you ask these questions to young men and women around the Air Force, I'm pretty sure you will generate plenty of enthusiasm.

Today's Air Force is a dynamic one that is more diverse now than ever before. To meet the increasing demands of our evolving mission, we need to develop leaders who are able to adapt to a wide variety of scenarios, with a broad range of experience to tap into. What better way to gain this experience than to serve in a special-duty assignment?

When you consider what special-duty assignments have to offer, it is very easy to understand why they are becoming more and more appealing to our enlisted force -- they are truly a "win-win" situation. Not only do they service the personal needs for many of our hard-charging Airmen, they also produce very well-rounded leaders. I believe every Airman should have the opportunity and should be encouraged to serve outside of their Air Force Specialty Code

When you look at the benefits involved, it is difficult to argue why they are not a part of our "normal" career progression. Although it is not a mandatory requirement for selection to the top of the enlisted ranks, it most certainly fortifies the "whole-person concept" when being considered for another stripe. To truly appreciate what special duties have to offer, we must first explore the wide variety we have to choose from.

According to an article in Sergeants magazine, 57 jobs are available to Airmen who wish to serve outside of their primary career field. These special duty assignments can give servicemembers the opportunity to learn new skills and gain experience outside of their normal career field.

Eligibility requirements for each position are determined by an Airman's ability to meet specific criteria. It is up to each Airman to take control over his/her career.

I think we would all agree that there is plenty of variety when searching for a special duty and just about every Airman should be able to find a job appealing to him or her. So, let's next turn our focus to return-on-investments.

Officers are no longer alone when it comes to investing time and effort into developing their careers. Junior non-commissioned officers also need to start thinking about developing themselves at an early stage. There is no better way to improve on fundamental skills learned within primary AFSCs than to broaden experiences outside of that career field. The time invested on the front end of an NCO's career will certainly pay dividends as that individual matures.

Aside from the unique challenges presented by each assignment, special-duty assignments also provide the opportunity to work for well-known organizations with highly-visible missions. According to "Airman's Guide", special-duty assignments also offer enhanced promotion opportunity. Fulfilling these jobs indicates a person is capable of increased responsibility in a position of special trust and confidence. Once our Airmen "cash in" their return-on-investment, they can begin to reap the benefits provided by the breadth of experience gained.

Oscar Wilde, the great Irish playwright once said: "Experience is the one thing you can't get for nothing." Perhaps the most beneficial impact of serving in a special duty is an increased breadth of experience. The "Professional Development Guide", defines breadth of experience as, "the individual's overall professional background, experience and knowledge gained during his or her career to the present."

I can personally attest serving outside of my specialty has given me a much broader perspective. As a loadmaster, I used my Career Field Education and Training Plan as a guideline to ensure I was living up to my expectations and "depositing" my contributions to my career field at each "toll booth" along the highway of career progression. Although this helped me gain valuable technical experience required to do my job, it did not allow me to experience what was happening outside of the aircrew "bubble." However, serving in a special-duty assignment increased my knowledge and provided me with the practical experience necessary to be a leader in today's total Air Force. I was able to learn much more about myself and my ability to lead, as the superintendent of a branch that contains eight different AFSCs. In fact, I've learned more in the last year than all of my previous experiences combined. These skills can surely be carried over to enhance my leadership and management abilities should I ever become a chief.

The variety of available positions is impressive to say the least. The seemingly endless options provide an opportunity to learn new skills outside of each AFSC, provided certain criteria are met. Remember, your return-on-investments are not limited by the challenges each job represents, but are even more appealing when you consider the enhanced promotion opportunities. Perhaps the most valuable measure is the breadth of experience gained when layered on top of the fundamental skills you bring to each assignment.

When you combine the broader perspective with the ability to carry these skills over, you can really begin to visualize the whole person. Chief master sergeants are unique in that they may be asked to lead any organization, regardless of AFSC -- a description that is not much different than serving in a special duty. Gaining "outside" experience makes our senior enlisted leadership more complete and allows them to better serve the needs of all of our Airmen. The only thing that can be traded for experience is time. It is now time to consider making an appointment with your base career assistance advisor and see if a special-duty assignment is right for you.