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NEWS | Jan. 30, 2012

Lead from the front: An Airman’s experience shadowing a chief for a day

By Airman 1st Class Katelyn Marshall 10th Intelligence Squadron

The phrase "with rank comes great responsibility" exemplifies the rank of chief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. Their days begin early and end late. There are more duties than hours in the day. Along with these responsibilities, they must uphold the highest level of military standards.

To give Airmen insight into the roles chiefs fulfill every day, selected Airmen shadowed a chief for a day. Airmen accompanied chiefs from outside their career fields. For example, an Airman in supply shadowed a chief from contracting, an air traffic control Airman followed a security forces chief, and a reserve intelligence Airman even followed a chief from the Heritage of America Band.

I used to think I was good at multi-tasking. That was before I shadowed Chief Master Sgt. Troy Eden, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing command chief. As an Airman, I am responsible for learning my skills and performing my job, passing my physical training test and volunteering when I can. A chief does all these things, but so much more. Their schedules leave nearly no time between meetings, briefings, travel and spending the day with Airmen. I still do not understand how he has time to meet all of his obligations.

We spent our morning in briefings and touring the facilities. When we walked into a room, Airmen would stand and say good morning. The respect paid to chief master sergeants is something I could easily get used to. While I'm sure most of us would love that kind of showing, I realize that respect so readily given to our chiefs is hard-earned and well deserved.

After the tour, we talked about career choices, ranging from officer commissioning to separating from the military. As expected, the chiefs were big proponents of their Airmen completing their Community College of the Air Force degrees. For lunch, we were accompanied by a prior-enlisted captain and a colonel. Even in the presence of senior officers, the chief was given respect not only by the enlisted Airmen, but by the officers as well.

In just one day following the chief, I learned so much about the Air Force, and even more about myself. The Air Force Enlisted Force Structure, affectionately known as the "Little Brown Book," states "As key mentors, [chief master sergeants] must deliberately develop subordinates into enlisted leaders of the future. "

I believe the chiefs that participated in this shadow day did just that. With their guidance, I know I will be a better Airman and leader. It only took a few hours in tow to realize it.

Every opportunity has a shelf life. I would take this opportunity this again in a heartbeat, and I would encourage any chief master sergeant with the ability to participate to do so. It was an invaluable opportunity to gain a broader perspective and appreciation for the Air Force and the enlisted leaders to keep it moving. This was a day I will remember for the rest of my career.