By Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Former Chief Master Sergeants of the Air Force David Campanale and Eric Benken visited here recently and spoke at the Airman Leadership School to address the future NCOs of a changing Air Force.
Both men served from the beginning of the 1970s until the mid or late 1990s, giving them a breadth of experience in change management at the end of large contingency operations overseas.
The pair had had three main messages to the future NCOs: a leaner Air Force presents many opportunities for upcoming NCOs, caring for your people will continue to be more important every day and the benefits of having a mentor as a young NCO can be significant.
“A lot of the stories they told from their past were applied to situations today in the class,” said Senior Airman Jean Blanchard, 50th Operations Group extremely high frequency satellite systems operator. “Both (chief master sergeants of the Air Force) opened the floor to questions and while their experiences relate to today, they both made clear that we are smaller and smarter now, and how leadership and young NCOs will determine the future of the Air Force.”
Benken and Campanale also spoke about the importance of enlisted leadership schools and how the schools lay the foundation for being a great NCO, said Blanchard. However, the leadership schools are a foundation and not a cure-all for every problem in the Air Force.
Continued opportunities for growth as an NCO were also a topic of discussion in the class; showing the importance of finding opportunities and a mentor to advance an NCOs career and the Air Force as a whole.
“I got the message that the Air Force is changing, we need to find as many opportunities as possible, always be open to new ideas, and continue to be respectful to others,” said Senior Airman Francis Royal, 52nd Airlift Squadron aviation technician.
Royal, who is planning to make the Air Force a career, was personally struck by Benken and Campanale’s message on caring for Airmen.
“The stories of leadership they spoke about really hit on loyalty, respect and providing a good example for your Airmen and your peers, which will make a difference at work and in their lives,” said Royal.
The lessons Benken and Campanale spoke about are still embodied by them today as they address ALS classes and other forums to share their experience, said Staff Sgt. Delilah Alvarado, 21st Force Support Squadron ALS instructor.
“Speaking to a retired chief master sergeant of the Air Force is a unique opportunity and a good opportunity for anyone — they show us just how important mentors are,” said Alvarado. “As an instructor, I can only give my students five years of experience, but they can give us a lesson from the past and guide us down a path to the future. It made my students feel awesome, it let my students know they really are part of something greater, but they also have a lot of responsibility.”
“It was a great experience,” said Blanchard. “It was eye opening to see how different we are but how the problems we may encounter are the same.”