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Senior NCO Perspective: Involvement

PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- I recently attended a Senior Noncommissioned Officer Graduation and was inspired to write this article relating to involvement. It comes on the heels of the recent Senior Master Sgt. promotion release.

With any promotion release there is always debate and discussion as to why one person was selected and another was not selected.

The discussion falls between fairy tale and fallacy that has led to what I view as a concept referred to as "just filling squares," instead of taking care and being active participants in developing the next generation of leaders.

This article is my perspective on how to combat the negative perception of "just filling squares."

Before dispelling the perception, let¹s begin by providing some background to the perception.

I overheard a group of Senior NCO¹s stating, "I¹m just doing this to fill a square to set myself up for promotion."

As a result, I wondered where this way of thinking originated and was it necessarily a negative characteristic?

I once believed people pursued activities like community service projects and private organization involvement, and did so purely because it would benefit their careers.

In some cases this was true; however, I suspect the majority of people were doing what it took to get the job done and not "just filling squares."

But far too often the perception outweighs reality. Based on this premise, let¹s examine where the perception began.

The perception began for me during my initial counseling session, when my first supervisor presented me with a chart with a series of items with squares next to each items.

These items included Professional Military Education, Community College of the Air Force degree, community involvement, off-duty education, and attending unit functions.
I examined various instructions to determine if these items were required for promotion, but I was unsuccessful in locating any applicable references.

What I have found is by completing these items, it reflects an individual commitment to expanding his / her professional and personal knowledge, and it indicated their commitment to leadership and the Air Force¹s Core Values.

Perhaps the perception is not reality and "just filling squares" is simply an overly used trite expression!

The perception revealed people were making choices; they were choosing to either "fill the squares" or opting not to do so because they deemed they are not necessary for advancement.

The key concept to remember is people make choices, whether right or wrong or for whatever reason.

So, what¹s really meant by "just filling squares?"

From my perspective, it means exceeding expectations and promoting the Air Force way of life by being involved.

³Filling squares² extends a person beyond their normal comfort zone and in some cases it requires more effort than some people are willing to expend.

Today, more than ever, leadership means, "filling squares," such as volunteering to be the Combined Federal Campaign project officer or blood drive coordinator and completing Community College of Air Force Degrees for enlisted personnel or advanced degrees for officers.

The Air Force requires and demands not only extended duty hours in support of the mission, but also late nights attending college classes to garner the necessary skills to meet the challenges of leadership.

While some people may view community service, off-duty education, and PME as "filling squares", I view them as making a commitment to the Air Force and our local community.

Whether you use the "filling the square" method or some other type of methodology, the most important thing to remember is to get involved, whether it¹s for personal or professional reasons.

In either case, the Air Force and ultimately the individual will benefit.