July 22, 2012 --
Several months ago members of the Chief's Council were brainstorming different ways to further develop junior enlisted Airmen and NCO leadership abilities within the Wing. After some discussion, a recommendation was made to the Wing Professional Development Council that we take a group of Airmen that have demonstrated leadership potential to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson AFB. This would provide an opportunity for Battle Creek Airmen to enhance their professional development and to learn more about Air Force history.
For those that haven't been to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, it is the largest and oldest air museum in the world. There are currently over 360 aircraft and missiles on display in five large hangers. Hundreds of exhibits containing items and facts relating to Air Force history are located throughout each hanger. Many of the aircraft and exhibits also relate directly to the 110th Airlift Wing, the Michigan Air Guard, and the State of Michigan.
Once full support was received from Col. Wilson and the Wing Professional Development Council, the Presidents of both the Senior Enlisted and Junior Enlisted Advisory Councils (Master Sgt. Jen Buehner and Tech. Sgt. Dan Cassini) volunteered to help plan the trip with the guidance from one of the Wing Chiefs. Planning took several months, involving the assistance of 110th Wing Finance, 110th Vehicle Operations, and other Air Force agencies located at Wright Patterson AFB.
Mentors were selected from across the Wing to serve as guides for the Airmen, and to share their Air Force career experiences. Each mentor was assigned 6 Airmen from different organizations, providing everyone in each group chance to meet other Airmen that they wouldn't normally have the opportunity to work with.
After an eventful bus ride involving numerous closed rest stops, a trip to Walmart, challenges with the bus environmental controls, and a detour that resulted in participation in part of a 4th of July parade, the bus arrived at the museum. A quick expectations briefing was given, then the mentors took charge of their Airmen to begin touring the museum.
Upon completion of touring for the day, all Airmen were checked into billeting to rest for a short while and the opportunity to change into civilian clothes for a group dinner in Dayton. Thanks to great planning by Master Sgt. Buehner and Tech. Sgt. Cassini, the Airmen had an excellent opportunity to further cement new friendships during conversations over dinner, while enjoying an excellent meal.
The next morning following breakfast at the dining facility, it was back to the museum to finish touring the main hangers and the chance to tour the Presidential and Experimental hangers. Many of the Airmen were in awe, as they walked through aircraft that numerous Presidents had made key decisions while flying in. SAM26000 was especially noteworthy, as you could still see where the bulkhead repair was made after it was cut to load President Kennedy's casket following his assassination in Dallas.
By the time everyone had finished touring the Presidential and Experimental hangers, it was time to pick up in-flight meals from the dining facility and head back home. The return trip was uneventful except for some brief extreme weather. Thanks to skillful driving by Chief Master Sgt. Trainor, everyone made it home safely.
Someone recently asked me if all of the time and effort to make this trip happen was worth it. My immediate response was "absolutely", I would like to make this an annual event. We started out with the goals of providing an opportunity for Airmen to enhance their professional development and to learn more about Air Force history. From the comments received on the post trip surveys, there was no doubt we met both intended goals while achieving a third of helping to build relationships across the Wing. While it was a fun trip for us mentors, the best part was watching our Airmen become engrossed in their heritage while cementing friendships with other Airmen across the Wing.
In my closing comments, I would like to thank the planners (Master Sgt. Buehner and Tech. Sgt Cassini) for doing the leg work, the mentors (Chief Master Sgt. Trainor, Senior Master Sgt. Dark, Master Sgt. Buehner, Master Sgt. Carroll, and Master Sgt. Parks) for sharing their experiences, the mentee's for their professionalism throughout the trip, and Wing leadership for supporting this opportunity. I look forward to more of these types of events in the future.