MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Finding a path to a fulfilling career can be a difficult task. Even with the best planning, unexpected twists and turns can arise at the most inopportune times.
Proper preparation and laying a foundation often keeps most individuals on track, and for cadets with the 158th Cadet Wing at the University of South Florida, their dedication and commitment is setting a course for bright futures as new leaders in the Air Force.
During a visit with 158th CW cadets, Col. Steve Snelson, the 6th Air Refueling Wing commander, spoke about his experiences as an ROTC cadet and what it takes to be an effective commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force.
“It is incredible how you will be tested as new lieutenants,” said Snelson. “Embrace the test because as new lieutenants you will have the joy of doing all sorts of new jobs, and those opportunities may make the difference in leading you down a great path.”
Snelson discussed the impact good leaders can have on their Airmen, and how they are a key factor in force retention.
“As officers, you should encourage your Airmen to come forward with innovative ideas, and find ways to capture and implement those ideas,” said Snelson. “Your Airmen will remember when you approach them with optimism and enthusiasm. Education and travel programs recruit Airmen, but good leaders retain them.”
For cadets with the 158th CW, having the opportunity to hear from Air Force leaders is another way to gain insight into the Air Force and the roles in which they will be serving.
“Speaking with successful Airmen passes the torch of wisdom and ultimately makes the transition into active roles in the Air Force more fluid,” said Steven Reyes, a USF senior and ROTC cadet with the 158th CW.
According to Reyes, learning how to lead others and prioritizing responsibilities are just a couple of the difficulties that ROTC cadets face - but by leaning on each other, the senior class with the 158th has been able to overcome those obstacles.
“The senior class is composed of 22 cadets and we are a tight group, and many of us have become close friends,” said Reyes. “Providing critical feedback to others is difficult, but it is a necessary skill to develop, because it will be our duty to provide this type of counsel to Airmen and our peers, as future officers.”
The final piece of advice Snelson gave to the cadets with the 158th CW was to strive for excellence in every aspect of their progression.
“Don’t ever say I’m just a second lieutenant, because actually, you are a first lieutenant in training,” said Snelson. “Always push yourself to the next level and think about what’s required to be at the next level, but not at the expense of the people around you.”