SNCOs: The backbone of the Air Force Published April 21, 2009 By 2nd Lt. Kevin Baker 354th Communications Squadron EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Eielson is my first duty station and I have no complaints, except the obvious, it's cold. Though I got here in October and was thrown right into my first "Alaska winter," it really wasn't that bad. Working with my non-commissioned officers and leading my Airmen makes putting my uniform on every day humbling. Nearly a year ago, I graduated from college with very little knowledge of how the "real Air Force" works. During the last six months, I have learned a multitude of things, one being that I am in a constant state of learning, and will be throughout my career. From handling personal finances and housing situations to motivating my subordinates; who do I go to with everyday questions? Senior NCOs. They are referred to as the 'backbone of the USAF,' and with good reason as they form the link between the officer and enlisted corps. While reading Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, one paragraph stood out for me as a company grade officer. It states that SNCOs "support CGOs continued development as leaders by sharing knowledge and experience." I share an office with a master sergeant who is more than willing to answer any question I have regardless of how trivial it may be. NCOs who have racked up 10 to 20 plus years in the service have a wealth of knowledge and experiences that new leaders, like myself, should be learning from. The majority of SNCOs I have met and worked with are more than willing to educate lieutenants on the "ins-and-outs" of the service. Observing how SNCOs lead Airmen is a useful tool for adapting one's own leadership. I have noticed that my Airmen look up to the SNCOs not only as supervisors but also as role models. They are always there for the Airmen, and are able to provide recommendations about handling issues. What CGOs can take away from this is that SNCOs are vital assets and a great resource to gain an understanding about many issues. In my short time in the Air Force, I have had to deal with many personal problems for Airmen, and I would have been lost without the master sergeant I work with. From administrative punishment to physical training failures, to family problems, I needed guidance numerous times, and she has helped me make the right decisions. She has also taught me how to deal with short notice deployments, a situation that can be very stressful for our Airmen. If you have any personnel issues, chances are a SNCO has seen it, heard or lived it and can give guidance on how to respond. The point I am trying to make to our SNCOs is, "Thank You." You provide the inspiration to your subordinates, but you also provide new officers with knowledge and advice... and I want you to know that I have the upmost respect for what you do.