Adventure helps mold future 119th Wing leaders

  • Published
  • By SMSgt. David H Lipp
  • 119th Wing
A group of 10 junior enlisted Airmen recently had the opportunity to participate in an Air Guard member-led, overnight leadership seminar at Fort Ransom State Park June 4-5 after being selected from a list of volunteers.

The attendees were representatives of the 119th Wing Junior Enlisted Advisory Council (JEAC), an organization created by Airmen for Airmen. The professional development group — for Airmen in the military grades of E-6 and below and with less than ten years of military service — gives members the ability to voice their opinions and concerns about issues affecting the North Dakota Air National Guard.

Junior enlisted organizations are common at U.S. Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard installations and are highly valued among senior leadership across the Air Force enterprise. The issues raised by JEAC members are presented to 119th Wing leadership and can be addressed early on, which Air Guard members say can be very important for retention and mission success.

“The 119th Wing commander (Col. Britt Hatley) wants to hear about what our young Airmen think about what’s going on within the unit,” said Chief Master Sgt. Duane Kangas, the 119th Wing command chief. “It’s an opportunity for him to tap into the pulse of the unit at its very foundation.”

JEAC members, and others who are interested in joining, attend monthly meetings during unit training assembly (on Sundays) to address issues affecting morale, welfare and quality of life for themselves and their peers.

According to the group’s mission statement, the JEAC also educates junior enlisted personnel about various benefits and services available to them.

During the two-day adventure to Fort Ransom in June, JEAC members were able to go canoeing on the Sheyenne River, hike through the state park and stayed in unique billeting quarters. The Airmen were lodged in portable, round, tent-like structures called “yurts.”

“This is the coolest leadership training I have ever had in the Air National Guard,” said Senior Airman Maggie Swenson, of the 119th Medical Group.

Prior to leaving on the trip, JEAC members researched and developed leadership exercises, drawing from their individual experiences to create a schedule of events.

They kicked their activity agenda off with an Air Force Specialty Code swap, which was an exercise in which they described each other’s jobs.

The Airmen also learned communication and conflict resolution techniques. They were assigned roles to play in different scenarios and discussed effective techniques for handling potential work-related personality clashes.

During the second day of the trip, Kangas and Senior Master Sgt. Chris Walberg, 119th Wing first sergeant, visited the junior Airmen to discuss their views on career success.

The JEAC members also spent time helping with a community service project, which included decorating pots with plants for veterans at the veterans home in Lisbon, North Dakota. The Airmen presented the potted plants and visited with the veterans on their way from Fort Ransom, back to Fargo.

“I really want to thank all the people involved in helping us to make this happen,” said Tech. Sgt. Shelly Fink, a recruiter in the 119th Wing and a JEAC member on the trip. “Events like this can really make a difference in a young Airman’s career and contribute to molding terrific future leaders for the 119th Wing.”

For more information about the JEAC, Airmen can to attend any of the group’s meetings, which are held at 1:30 p.m. in the 119th Logistics Readiness Squadron classroom on Sundays during unit training assemblies.