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Commentary | June 22, 2011

Take advantage of training opportunities early in your career

By Senior Airman Jason J. Brown 633d Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The Air Force provides some of the best training in the world, building Airmen into highly-skilled technical experts. This begins in basic training and technical schools, where we learn our trade, followed by on-the-job training and professional military education. Airmen continue honing their craft throughout their careers.

However, while some strive to achieve the status quo, those that truly want be among the best should explore training opportunities outside of normal, ancillary training as early in their career as possible. The more you know, the more you can contribute to the mission. That extra knowledge may be the difference in an "above average" and "clearly exceeds" rating on your next performance report.

For example, I serve primarily as a journalist, writing news stories about events across Joint Base Langley-Eustis. Occasionally, I'll bring a camera and document events in photographs. While I learned fundamental elements of photography in tech school, I realized I needed more training after reviewing my subpar products.

Rather than shrug my shoulders and settle for less, I enrolled in an advanced photography course with the U.S. Navy. The two-week class reintroduced me to my gear, the foundations of shooting photographs and what it means to be a photojournalist. Within the first two days, I noticed significant improvements in my work, as I began to understand how to truly control the camera using manual settings. Rather than relying on automatic point-and-click methods, I learned how to master the gear. The camera didn't take photographs anymore; I did.

Training opportunities extend beyond the classroom. Temporary duty assignments often provide new environments, people and scenarios to apply existing experience or learn new skills. Within my first three years in uniform, I'll have participated in two TDYs, building proficiencies in core career skills and even work outside my career field, such as radio broadcasting, base security and information technology.

In addition, consider applying for special duty assignments when possible, as these jobs allow Airmen to step outside of their primary profession to learn and perform new duties. These assignments benefit not only Air Force, but give Airmen the opportunity to expand their professional skill palette.

Leadership expects Airmen to continually meet high standards, becoming the best at what they do in defense of their nation. Most often, these expectations are clear and concise, with benchmarks along the way to meter one's career development. But when you get to that mile marker, why stop there? Invest in yourself, seek out training in the form of classes, TDYs and seminars, and become a subject matter expert. Knowledge is power.