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Conference Gives Maryland NCOs Broader Perspective

BALTIMORE -- Four mid-grade NCOs from the 175th Wing recently got a healthy dose of professional development as part of a four-day conference held by the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.

Tech. Sgt. Steven Hood, 175th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron; Tech. Sgt. Tammi George, 175th Force Support Squadron; Staff Sgt. Jamel Forte, 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron; and Staff Sgt. Brandon Helt, 135th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, were selected to accompany Chief Master Sgt. Glenn Hart, the state command chief master sergeant, to the 39th Annual EANGUSĀ Conference. The Maryland Army Guard also sent six of its members.

The goal of the conference, which was held in St. Louis Aug. 8 to 11, was to enhance enlisted professional development, according to Sergeant Hood. This included presentations by top National Guard enlisted and officer leaders, including Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Chief Master Sgt. Christopher E. Muncy, command chief master sergeant of the Air National Guard.

"Professional development was the main course for the conference," he said. "I have had the privilege to meet some inspirational people in my career, but nothing compared to the EANGUS conference."

According to the Chief Hart, conferences such as this help develop junior and mid-grade enlisted members by exposing them to a broader view of their service and the military in general.

"We're great at developing technical experts," he said. "But we need to put the same amount of energy into developing leaders. The Airmen and junior NCOs of today are the chiefs of tomorrow. If we just sit back and hope the future will take care of itself instead of investing the time and effort it takes to develop these Airman, we're setting our organization up for failure."

According to Sergeant Helt, one of the highlights of the conference was the chance to interact with eight of the last 10 Air National Guard command chief master sergeants during a question-and-answer session.

"The combined knowledge of these distinguished gentlemen and their eagerness to share it with junior NCOs and young Airman was very motivating," he said.

The attendees also found great value in the peer-to-peer interactions that took place. Sergeant Helt especially welcomed the opportunity to speak with the Air National Guard's Outstanding Airmen of the Year winners.

"The time spent with these individuals was unique in that we were not listening to superiors, as was the case in most briefings, but rather we had the opportunity to interact with our peers who had distinguished themselves," Sergeant Helt said. "This was an excellent opportunity to pick their brains and find out what they had done in their careers to put themselves in a position to succeed."

Sergeant Forte - who also happens to be Maryland's 2010 NCO of the Year - agreed, pointing out how the OAY winners had emphasized the importance teamwork played in their success. According to Sergeant Forte, the ANG OAY winners all stressed that "they didn't acquire the accolades they achieved alone," and that communication with and support from others was "fundamental" to their success.

The Maryland Airmen attending this year's conference all seemed to agree on one thing: it was time well spent that will pay dividends as their careers progress.

"The EANGUS conference was filled with so many great attributes that there isn't just one that I can say was truly better than another," Sergeant George said. "The valuable information received during the four days from a group with extensive knowledge and military experience will remain with me forever."

Chief Hart underscored the importance of leaders at all levels actively supporting the professional development of the enlisted force, citing theĀ support of Col. Scott L. Kelly, the 175th Wing commander, as an example.

"None of this about have been possible without his support," the chief said. "He is making enlisted professional development a priority. We are planning to send more people next year to the conference in Charleston, W. Va."