Air Force leaders on Wednesday outlined their vision for a new approach to enlisted force development, hoping to better prepare airmen in their professional and personal lives.
The 28-point proposal lists goals — encompassing military training and education, leadership development, teamwork and mental toughness — that the service hopes to achieve by the end of 2023.
“The action plan serves to transform force development from the limitations of the industrial age to leverage the opportunities and capabilities of the modern digital age,” the document states. “We must look beyond the lines of Air Force Specialty Codes and elevate our mission across the force through command relationships, connections amongst our teams and a unified purpose.”
To start, officials will create a go-to database, or “blueprint,” that lays out information on Air Force priorities, resources and careers so enlisted airmen can more easily chart their path forward. The service hopes to offer that as soon as April.
“This document will serve as a living foundational resource that links all enlisted development from entry to departure, including key concepts to connect enlisted airmen to the profession of arms,” the Air Force said in a release Thursday.
Leaders want to grow the caliber of noncommissioned and senior noncommissioned officers by taking a fresh look at how soon airmen are ready to serve as supervisors after Airman Leadership School. Similar initiatives mirror work that is already underway, like placing a higher value on job experience in promotions and creating a writing guide to accompany the changing enlisted evaluations.
“Saying ‘you’ll figure it out’ to new supervisors can’t be our default approach,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass said in the release. “We must be more deliberate — especially when it comes to people.”
Notably, the document formalizes a push to ditch paper promotion tests in favor of computer exams. The Air Force is targeting December 2023 for that change, especially after lost batches of tests underscored the need for greater reliability.
The Air Force wants to add another title to its bookshelf, too. On top of the “Little Blue Book” of Air Force values and the “Little Brown Book” on the enlisted organizational structure — both staples of airmen’s training — the service aims to issue the “Purple Book” in June.
As the name indicates, the Purple Book would discuss the joint force’s military capabilities and how the Air Force fits into the larger DoD picture. The Air Force has been jockeying for a larger role in the joint community for years, particularly after former Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein made it a priority in 2016.
Several items on the to-do list involve educating the force about modern threats, how competing with other countries differs from fighting them, and the role of the digital realm in warfare. Reforms would improve the content of that training as well as the overall quality of career development programs.
Leaders want airmen to boost their financial literacy and to prioritize physical and mental wellness, too. One goal slated for April is to push units to spend more time together to forge relationships and build team unity, as frequent suicides continue to plague units across the force.
Officials plan to send airmen a quarterly report card to track their progress toward each goal.
“Airmen will need to be prepared to defeat the speed and complexity of threats we face around the globe each day,” Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. said in the release. “This plan is designed to do just that.”
Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.