The Air Force Materiel Command held the first-ever Agile Patriot professional development conference, Nov. 2-5, equipping emerging leaders with a greater understanding of the AFMC mission and the knowledge, skills and expertise to help lead the organization into the future.
“We want to help you understand more about what we do and how important what you do every day is to the AFMC and the Air Force,” said Gen. Arnold W. Bunch, Jr., commander of AFMC, during opening remarks at the event. “Everything we do in this command is for the other commands to be successful across the Air Force. I hope you walk away from this week with a better understanding of what you do and the ethos of being an Airman in AFMC.”
Nearly 1,000 military and civilian Airmen from across AFMC attended the four-day conference held on the Microsoft Teams virtual platform. The event aimed to address gaps in training and development for mid-level employees as identified in feedback from multiple command surveys, including the AFMC We Need, Defense Organizational Climate Survey, AFMC Supervisory Needs Assessment and more.
Senior AFMC, Air Force and civilian experts led interactive briefings and discussions, providing insights on leadership and advice on how individuals could grow and achieve in their careers and life. Each day focused on a specific aspect of professional growth, to include skills for strengthening teams, tenets of leadership development, resiliency, mentorship, communication and more.
“The group that I am talking to right now … that is leading in the middle of the pack, you are the people with the most impact on the culture of our Air Force, the strength of our Air Force and where we’re going to go,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass during an open forum where she fielded questions on current Air Force policy and future changes across the service.
Simon Sinek, author of “Leaders Eat Last,” “The Infinite Game,” and a number of other well-known leadership books and articles, was a featured guest at the event where he spoke on mindset and the importance of continuous learning and cooperation to a leader’s overall success.
“It is imperative when we take over a leadership position that we evaluate the game and the time we are in,” Sinek said. “We have to lead differently depending on the game we are in … the only true competitor in the game is actually ourselves. It’s really a game of constant improvement.”
Among other notable speakers were Lt. Gen. Carl Schaefer, AFMC deputy commander, who shared his principles for leadership success; Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center commander, who spoke on the importance of strategic communication; and Maj. Gen. Stacey Hawkins, director of AFMC Logistics, Civil Engineering, Force Protection and Nuclear Integration Directorate, who talked about motivating individuals and teams.
Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief Master Sgt. Ramón Colón-López, kicked off the final day of the event by sharing his thoughts on ‘carnivore leadership,’ force health and readiness, the importance of followership, and personal responsibility.
“In order to lead, you must follow. When you follow, you get education and experience. This, over time, builds credibility,” Colón-López said. “Followership makes you a leader without being assigned to a leadership position. We are the masters of our own actions; it is up to us what we do with our assignments, and the ability to learn is what matters the most.”
Attendee feedback for the inaugural event was overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing appreciation for the direct access to leadership as well as a greater understanding of the impacts of the AFMC mission on the Air Force as a whole.
“This was a great way to inform us on our MAJCOM (major command) while teaching us how to better lead. My biggest takeaway was that I was able to witness leaders from different backgrounds and at different levels stand behind the same message: people first,” said Staff Sgt. Aryel M. Tafoya, a noncommissioned officer at the Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California. “You are taught to listen to others and it is emphasized during your leadership classes, but do you really do it? I enjoyed how they (the briefers) honed in on this and reminded us that we need to actively listen and engage to be good leaders.”
For Chief Master Sgt. David Lukas, Agile Patriot lead, the innovation and dedication of the conference execution team played a huge role in the event’s success, which is likely to be an enduring offering for AFMC Airmen into the future.
“The biggest challenge was operating in a virtual environment, and with as many attendees and guest speakers we had, minor issues were bound to arise. Our team was able to think and assess problems quickly, with minimal disruption,” Lukas said.
“Our goal for Agile Patriot was to provide a comprehensive professional development experience for AFMC’s mid-tier workforce, and we believe we met the intent. The goal is to continue this event moving forward.”