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Welcome to the top 3: Accepting the charge

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

On May 24, 2017, the U. S. Air Force announced the selection of newly appointed Master Sergeants. On that list, number 2,551 was my name.

The congratulatory phone call from my leadership culminated 14 years of a goal although striving for, I was not sure was obtainable.

Fourteen years of working to be a great Airman, a follower, a leader, the standard, the example. Thirteen Enlisted Evaluation Reports, three levels of Professional Military Education, thousands of hours dedicated to military and community events, a multitude of deployments and numerous awards.

This was it, I DID IT! I have obtained my goal….so now what?

As a mandatory requirement, I attended a 5 day senior non-commissioned officer professional enhancement seminar. This seminar is geared toward recently promoted Master Sergeants and Technical Sergeants selected for promotion to Master Sgt.

The seminar agenda listed various briefings, with topics ranging from physical fitness and nutritional wellness to the military justice system. Everything that should be on your radar as a Senior NCO was covered accordingly. Insight from enlisted and officer panels gave a new perspective on how I, as a future Senior NCO, would be viewed and what would be expected of me from those that I will follow and those I am charged to lead.

These topics, of course were not new to me, I have heard them many times over the course of my military career. The words sounded the same, but the delivery was something unfamiliar. As I and 30 of my peers sat in silence, ears tuned in, I couldn’t help looking around in search of facial expressions that depicted the way I was feeling inside.  Am I the only one thinking to myself…This Just Got Real!

The message was clear; I am now the ONE. I am the one everyone will look to. I am the one to set the tone. I am the one responsible for the welfare of my people. I will be the one to encourage celebration for my teams’ successes and the first one to look in the mirror when we have short comings.

It is now in this moment of transition, that I do not have anyone else to point the finger to or place the blame on. Those actions are not positive actions for any NCO, but the option to do so, is now gone and that can be scary.

As the week progressed, my confidence and ability to execute, although shaky, was still intact. Many questions ran through my head: Are you ready? Can you do this? Are you prepared?

The last of the 5 day seminar ended with a Senior NCO Recognition Ceremony. This ceremony is like a rite of passage hosted by current senior NCOs, welcoming you into the tier of the top three enlisted ranks. This is a time where your family, supervisors, and command leadership also celebrate your accomplishment. It is a night where you can’t hide. You are the highlight. Everyone has come to celebrate the new leaders.

During the ceremony, the Senior NCO Charge is read:

"In the United States Air Force, a Master Sergeant joins an elite group.  The term "Sergeant" is an ancient, honorable one that denotes a person possessing special skills, trust, and integrity.  All of you are now Master Sergeants, which means you have mastered the techniques and abilities required of noncommissioned officers.  As you progress to Senior Master Sergeant and Chief Master Sergeant, your title will change, but not the designation as a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer.  You are afforded privileges not awarded to others, and you have freely accepted responsibility beyond the call of normal duty.  You have, by your actions and performance, earned the respect of your seniors and juniors.  As Master Sergeants, your entire way of life will change.  More will be expected of you; more will be demanded of you--not because you are a Master Sergeant, but because you are now a Senior NCO.  You have not merely been promoted one pay grade, you have joined an exclusive group--A group dedicated to taking care of those who follow in their footsteps.  As a member of this group, you have a responsibility to your fellow Senior NCO's even as they have a responsibility to you." 

  • I am a Senior Noncommissioned Officer in the United States Air Force.
  • I hold allegiance to my country, devotion to duty, and personal integrity above all.
  • I wear my rank of authority with dignity, I promote the highest standards of conduct, appearance, and performance by setting the example.
  • I seek no favors because of my rank.
  • I am devoted to the concept of service rather than personal gain.
  • I uphold the traditions of senior noncommissioned officers who precede me.
  • I manage resources under my control with astute efficiency, and lead the way with the highest level of competence.
  • I always strive to merit the respect of my fellow senior noncommissioned officers and of all with whom I come in contact.

It was during this charge, that my confidence took a strong stance, the question if I was ready had left my mind. As I listened to the words soaring through the room, I remembered the journey to get here wasn’t easy, but I am here. The journey ahead will not always be easy, but I will proceed forward.

I remembered that I am a product of my leaders before me. Lessons good or bad have been learned. I am the legacy of their hard work and culmination of the times they stood and accepted this charge. They have built a leader in me. I will carry on the tradition of the Senior NCO.

I remembered that I have been training for this moment since I raised my hand to protect this country. I am standing on the shoulders of the 42 Airmen I have lead in my career. They have kept me honest. They have held me accountable. They have instilled in me who I need to be and who I want to be for those who follow me.

I am ready! I am a senior NCO, I accept the charge. I will not falter.