Air Force officers prepare cadets for leadership

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Tamara Dabney
  • 103rd Airlift Wing

On a crisp fall morning in New Haven, Conn., ROTC cadets prepared to take a group picture outside of Yale University’s Linsly-Chittenden Hall. Standing next to them were decorated Air Force officers, whose footsteps many of them plan to follow.

The cadets, assigned to Air Force ROTC Detachment 009 at Yale University, participated in a panel discussion that morning led by 15 seasoned Air Force officers. Panelists discussed the technical aspects of various fields, such as engineering, combat control, flight operations, and public affairs. They also spoke in-depth about the importance of delegating tasks, assigning responsibility and mentoring Airmen.The discussion gave cadets a rare opportunity to personally interact with active officers (other than their ROTC instructors) and gain unique insight into what it takes to be an effective leader in various Air Force career fields.

“Cadets read the news, they see the websites, but they don’t always have enough time to actually meet someone and hear their personal story, which could inspire them,” said Capt. Estelle Baik, Detachment 009 Operations Flight Commander. “I think everybody’s personal stories give the cadets good insight and good preparation for active duty on how to be a good leader.”

Cadets who complete the ROTC program at Yale will enter the Air Force as Company Grade Officers at the rank of second lieutenant. The cadets can benefit from the mentorship they receive from the CGOs on the panel, because CGOs can testify as to what it feels like to be a junior officer in today’s Air Force, Baik said.

“The benefit is that they are able to relate more,” said Baik. “They [the cadets] are going to be young, second lieutenants. I’ve heard lessons [from panelists] ‘this is what I did as a second lieutenant’ and ‘this is what I shouldn’t have been doing.’”

Maj. William Deme and Capt. Jennifer Pierce, both assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing, Connecticut Air National Guard, volunteered to lead the panel with hopes of having a positive and lasting impact in the lives of future Air Force officers.

“I thought it was fantastic being able to interact with the cadets and other officers as they gave their perspectives,” said Deme. “It was good to see that they got breadth and depth of experiences.”

While cadets can benefit from being able to relate to CGOs, Field Grade Officers like Deme, who has served in the Air Force for over 25 years, offer sage wisdom. Deme expressed why it is important for him to prepare the next generation of officers to lead as he approaches the end of his career. He said the panel discussion facilitates mentorship, which is essential to the future success of the cadets and the Air Force mission.

“Some of the officers who I was interacting with were kind of in the second half or twilight of their career,” said Deme. “It’s really important that we get out there and make sure tomorrow’s leaders are getting the coaching and mentoring today to ensure that they are successful in their careers. These men and women are the future.”

Pierce agreed that mentorship for future officers is important for the future of the Air Force.

“Being able to provide even just a tiny dose of positive impact to those who are coming in after you is a great opportunity,” said Pierce. “When you think about the Air Force as a whole, you want to leave it a better organization than it was when you came in.”

Although 99 percent of cadets who complete the Yale ROTC program intend to serve in the Active component of the Air Force, the Air National Guard can be a viable option for cadets who want to settle in one location rather than relocate every few years while serving on active duty. Regardless of what component the cadets enter, they can benefit from the guidance of experienced officers. Deme, who transferred to the Air National Guard from active duty, expressed that he and other officers are obligated to help to develop quality leaders for the Air Force and the nation.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re stepping up and mentoring,” said Deme. “It’s a big deal.”