McLaughlin Air National Guard Base --
For too many Airmen, PME is viewed as a problem or an obstacle in the way of promotion; however, the overarching problem with PME isn't PME itself - instead it is the way we, as leaders, have promoted the importance of it for years.
When I first joined the WVANG, PME was another box to fill. The mindset was if you want to get promoted, suck it up and do it, and you can dump it later. It was never discussed as a tool to make you a better leader. When I wanted to go in-residence, my supervisors viewed it as a waste of time and something better accomplished through CDCs.
A couple of years ago, I was able to attend my first in-residence PME course when I attended the Chiefs Leadership Course. The information, contacts, and more importantly, the techniques learned in how to approach situations have helped me to become a better leader.
I have changed my approach a bit and tell my Airmen that yes, PME is necessary for promotion, however, it is more than just a prerequisite for a pay increase; it will make you a more effective Airman, a better follower, and as you progress, it will make you a better leader. In this way, I remove the focus from "How do I get promoted?" "How do I get selected for this or that?" and make it more about the organization and the Airman. By becoming a better follower, you obtain the knowledge and skill needed to become a leader. We should not only be strategic in the way we approach how we lead in day to day operations or in battle, but we should strive to be mindful in even the things that seem mundane.
PME forces self-growth by causing you to see areas that are strengths, but it will also open you up to the realization of weak areas and the need for improvement. I feel that it also gives you the tools needed to facilitate change within yourself, opening you up to new possibilities and creating an individual that wants to be a positive member of the organization, regardless of the role they fill.
Thinking critically and strategically allows us to face day to day problems in a different way. We can ascertain that what may seem like an insignificant problem can cause turmoil in the big picture if the root of the issue is causing our Airman strife and conflict. It helps us get to the source of the problem and not see it as just another Airman complaining.
I believe that when we think strategically about everything we do, it causes us to realize that there is a problem with our Airman or our organization before it becomes an issue. It gives us the foresight to start working on solutions, and we become leaders that solve problems instead of leaders looking for answers.
Promote PME to our Airmen, NCOs, and SNCOs, and it will develop them and help us improve a bench of leaders so that when we are gone, no step is missed. Hopefully, a better leader takes over because we took the time to develop and show our subordinates the importance of PME and gave them the tools required to be the strategic thinkers needed in today's and tomorrow's military structure.
Learning should never stop. Just because we are in various roles of leadership doesn't mean that we have obtained everything we need to be successful. Continue to learn, ask questions, and mentor those coming up behind you. I hope that through my experiences, I am in turn developing leaders that will do it better than I do, and I believe this is the greatest legacy we can leave any organization, GREAT LEADERS.
CMSgt Matthew Colagrosso is the 130 MXS/EMF Superintendent.