SNCO of the Year takes training seriously Published May 3, 2015 By Airman 1st Class Steven Tucker 103rd Airlift Wing, Public Affairs BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, East Granby, Conn. -- Leadership is a vital building block in maintaining a strong force, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the education and training needs of the Flying Yankees at the 103rd Airlift Wing will be in good hands with an individual who has proven to be a tremendous leader for her troops. Master Sgt. Nicole Thomas recently won the Connecticut Air National Guard Outstanding Senior NCO of the Year award for her work as the superintendent of nursing services in the 103rd Medical Group. She says her experience in nursing services will benefit her as she transitions into her new role as the superintendent of force development at the 103rd Force Support Squadron. Sgt. Thomas's leadership skills come from her 14-year career in the Guard, beginning as an apprentice in the medical group. "You start off learning the basics. You get your EMT training and learn basic medical knowledge and then, as you move up, it's more supervisory." The award-winning superintendent explained how her experience has made her gain a better understanding of the mission as a whole. "You get more of the bigger picture with each step you raise; you get the higher view." Sergeant Thomas also said there are aspects of her former position that directly correlate to force development. "When our primary Unit Training Manager left, there was a vacancy," said Thomas. "So I became the additional duty UTM, and got a little more knowledge with the formal schools and helping to get our people in the med group trained." The 103rd Medical Group also claimed the NCO of the Year and Junior Officer of the Year awards, nearly sweeping the four different outstanding categories as a group. The SNCO of the Year says this can be attributed to the type of professional environment that her mentors have established. "I think it's the leadership that's in place there now," she said. "The mentorship that's in place there now has cultivated these individuals, and I think that's reflected." Now this outstanding SNCO has the opportunity to take these valuable experiences and apply them to her wing-level position and other aspects of her life. "I think you take that anywhere you go," said Thomas. "It goes back to the mentors that I've had through my career, taking little pieces from each of them and shaping myself. You will do that anywhere." "The things that I've taken from some of these people, I may not necessarily apply on the military side," Thomas said. "I may apply that on the civilian side as well. So it's not even necessarily my new role, it's just my life in general." At the same time, Sergeant Thomas says that there have already been great benefits in her new position with force development. "It's been a fantastic opportunity to transition from the unit level to the wing level," she said. "We see people from the start of their career--the student flighters coming in looking for their Basic Military Training and technical school dates--to the individuals who are coming back from their [advanced specialty training], and then we see them retire as they out-process from the base. So we kind of see everybody through their career span, and that's been pretty cool to see." Having gone through many professional growth experiences herself, Sergeant Thomas hopes to offer words of wisdom to newer Flying Yankees going through their professional development. "While you may not as a brand new three-level see how your role impacts anything, it does," said Sergeant Thomas. "Every single person on this base plays an important role in our mission. So take every experience here for what it's worth and understand not only what you're getting out of the experience, but what you're giving to the experience as well."