EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Enlisted leaders gathered to learn valuable job skills during the installation’s first Superintendent Symposium held here Jan. 29 to Feb. 1.
The course was established to fulfill a gap in training for superintendents.
“We have Airman Leadership School and the Non-commissioned and Senior NCO Academies teaching Airmen how to lead throughout various stages in their careers,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jamie Auger, 96th Test Wing command chief. “What we didn’t have was a course identifying the roles and responsibilities specific to superintendents.”
Superintendents are in charge of their units’ daily operations. Though duties are dependent on specific mission sets, universal superintendent responsibilities include managing manpower, budget, unit readiness, and personnel functions, to name a few.
The course’s curriculum, spearheaded by Senior Master Sgts. Jason Buttke and Justin Gholston, was derived from the feedback of current and past superintendents and base command chiefs. Together, the senior enlisted leaders developed topics they believed would be pertinent to incoming superintendents.
“We used our collective experience to help drive the content and briefers, addressing what we would have liked to have known while we were in that capacity,” said Buttke, 96th Operations Group Detachment 1 superintendent. “Our goal was to provide an environment where superintendents could relate to and use that knowledge to help make more informed decisions as they progress in their careers.
Students learned about their daily roles, how to support of the overall health of their squadron and prepare for the unexpected. In turn, graduating superintendents will use that knowledge to support their Airmen and senior enlisted leaders, according to Buttke.
The National Defense Strategy, deployment and medical readiness, manpower, budget, assignments, inspector general applications, and personnel were some of the topics covered by subject matter experts. Students also visited the Air Force Enlisted Village to learn how they could support retired enlisted brethren and families.
A large part of the course focused on developing relationships and helping superintendents understand they aren’t alone and don’t have to operate in a vacuum, said Auger.
“We reached out to all of our enlisted leaders,” he said. “Interest was so strong, we wound up with a diverse group of 65 master, senior and chief master sergeants from five installations across the U.S.”
The opportunity to network with colleagues prompted Senior Master Sgt. Velma Piotrowski, 96th TW Wing Staff Agency superintendent and administration functional manager, to attend.
“I didn’t get an opportunity to serve as a squadron-level superintendent, and this course allowed me to share experiences and learn from my peers,” said the 22-year veteran. “I was relieved knowing I wasn’t the only one who felt disconnected with the expectations my role brings.”
Piotrowski oversees the operations component for more than 10 different organizations, composed of more than 350 military and civilian personnel. With a diverse team to support, she applied the course’s teachings to her own focus areas, or as she calls them, her “three big rocks.”
“For me, it’s all about the people, relationships and bridging gaps,” she said. “The organizations I oversee are spread out. I have to ensure I focus on the people and bridge any gaps to create a cohesive group setting. This course gave me a wealth of information to achieve that.”
For Buttke, the course exemplified team work.
“I tell fellow superintendents and Airmen alike, ‘you’re not going to know everything,’” he said. “We learn from each other’s experiences - every Airman should network and build relationships with their peers to not only learn, but know who the subject matter experts are to get the job done effectively.”
The symposium is expected to be offered on an annual basis to incoming and current superintendents.