NEWS | July 6, 2021

What I Learned From My New Wingmen

By Spc. Keon Horton U.S. Army Central

I’ve been in the Army for almost two years now, an opportunity to attend Airman Leadership School usually wouldn't be allowed for an E-4 who’s had no experience doing anything leadership related. But for me it was different, I work at U.S. Army Central Headquarters or Third Army. An assignment that junior Public Affairs Soldiers are now being brought into. Being here for almost a year has helped me gain a tremendous amount of leadership skills that added to my career development to make me a perfect candidate for the class.
In April, I attended the U.S. Air Force’s “Airman Leadership School”, the USAF equivalent to the U.S. Army’s Basic Leaders Course. This course is the first stage of the Air Force’s Professional Military Education, preparing service members for promotion to non commissioned officers. When my leadership approached me with the opportunity to attend, I said yes immediately and without reservation. Even though Soldiers do not currently receive any formal credits or promotion points from the course.
I saw an opportunity to form a strong relationship with my USAF counterparts and a chance to learn how the USAF and Army leadership classes are similar in some ways and different in others. I also realized I could build my “toolkit” and combine things I will eventually learn from BLC and ALS to become a better Soldier now and a stronger NCO in the future.
I wanted to show them who and what a Soldier really is. From day one I came in with the mindset that I would show them that even though I knew nothing about the Air Force, I would do my best to exceed beyond the standards. Exceeding beyond the standards is what drove me throughout the course to try and achieve the highest grades possible on anything I was given. In the end it all paid off because I was able to be amongst the top ten percent of our class and earned the Distinguished Graduate Award.
From the beginning of class the Airmen made me feel incredibly welcome, even though I stood out because I was the only Soldier in attendance. I’ve only been in uniform a short time, but I can honestly say it was one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
The class interactions of personnel who all had distinctly different jobs from each other allowed me to learn about them, their jobs, and the things that drove them to want to be a future leader. Through the five weeks we spent in the course, we grew a connection with each other that I never thought would happen. That connection grew from within the class but also from the time we spent outside of class together. Whether it was visiting each other's homes, sharing laughs, confiding in one another, or simply competing to be our best. We all challenged and lifted one another up daily so that we could achieve one of the three Core Values of the USAF: Excellence In All We Do. Which turns out is incredibly similar to our Army Values of Duty and Selfless Service.
One thing that stood out to me about ALS was the clear delegation of tasks. We had an assigned role for every student, whether it was taking pictures, making coffee, taking the trash out, or even a homework monitor. This stuck with me because I have often seen one person loaded with multiple roles causing them to bounce around from task to task without being able to fully focus on the job at hand. But with the delegation of tasks down to the simplest thing, it gives everyone more time and a better focus on a specific duty or task. With everyone having one thing to focus on, in the end, that mission, project, or task will have an amazing outcome.
My job as a Public Affairs Specialist usually requires lots of multitasking. We specialize in graphic design, videography, photography, and journalism. In some cases it can be a little overwhelming but in the long run it helps shape and mold me. It helps me realize that with being a leader comes great responsibility, not only for your troops but their family also and so many other things. With this class though, we were able to focus on one project at a time. With my multitasking skills it allowed me to break down the rubric as sort of like mini projects to me so I could go that extra step on each thing we were graded on to make sure I hit the “Exceeds” mark.
At the end of it all, it wasn’t about what I learned or gained from the curriculum. It was about the knowledge and insight I got from classmates and instructors. Whether we were pushing each other, challenging each other, or giving each other constructive criticism, it made me realize that it’s bigger than just me. Even though we serve in different branches, we realized there was an endless amount of things we could learn from each other and that's what we did.
We grew and bettered ourselves as people, service members, and leaders. ALS Class 21-4 will forever hold a place in my heart for all the memories, connections, and guidance I received, all while building a relationship with my U.S. Air Force counterparts.