Walk a mile in my boots: Airman, SNCO trade places

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Young Airmen often look at leadership with admiring eyes and witness all of the benefits. They see the increased pay, spacious offices and personal parking spots and instantly envision what it must be like to walk a day in their boots.

These common misconceptions of what it's like to be at the top of the military ranks inspired the 23d Logistics Readiness Squadron to host the "Walk a Day in Our Shoes" booster club fundraiser.

"The whole concept of the fundraiser was to get lower ranking Airman to understand the jobs of higher ranking officials in the military," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Donald Smith, 23d LRS fuels environmental and safety office representative.

Senior Airman Wallis Iduoze, 23d LRS fuels distribution operator and Master Sgt. Michael Dunblazier, 23d LRS operations section chief, swapped roles and duties for a day Nov. 13.

Dunblazier was chosen after members of the 23d LRS voted for which senior non-commissioned officer or commander they would like to see do an entry level job. The votes were close but it came down to the Airmen wanting to see Dunblazier in action.

"I haven't held the position of a fuels distribution operation since 2001 at my first duty station (Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.)," said Dunblazier, who was excited to do entry level work again after 13 years. "I was stoked [to swap] because it's always good to get back to your roots.

"(The Airmen) probably don't think so but as a master sergeant you have to be able to do the entry level positions," said Dunblazier. "In this career field, you have to drive a truck and learn how to refuel aircraft before you can lead. That's why it's definitely a blessing to be able to go back and do those things."

Initially, the idea was just to raise funds but it evolved into much more, a day that was designed to teach the Airmen life lessons.
"He's going to learn that my job is not as easy as they may think it is," said Dunblazier.  "I know back in the day, I used to always think that the fuels support guys would just sit on the internet all day and do nothing while I was out there eating lunch in my refueler. The grass is always greener on the other side and I think he's going to learn that there are a lot of time crunches and detail oriented things that come through our office."

Smith, who created the fundraiser, described it as a new creative way to step outside of the box and raise money while bridging the gap between Airmen and higher ranking officials.

"A lot of young Airmen don't think that higher ups do anything because they know how to manage their time," said Smith. "They might see a SNCO or commander playing around or a little happier than they see themselves because they're doing the 'grunt' of the work, so they think."

Dunblazier and Smith were right. After Idouze got over the excitement of having his own office and parking spot he got to see firsthand what a SNCO does.

"I've learned plenty ... it may not be the physical work but it is more mental than anything," said Idouze.  "It seems like as soon as I get one thing done someone else comes in my office asking for my opinion. It can be scary because they're coming to you because they know that you know what you're doing."

Going into the day Idouze said he thought it might be nice to get that one-hour lunch and do no manual labor but the added responsibility and pressure showed him what being a SNCO is all about.

"I feel like if I make the wrong decision I can jeopardize (a career)," said Iduoze. "It's a scary situation and I give the managers credit for what they do, being able to apply their knowledge and confidence to make the shop run. At my level, as an Airman, I think about myself, my job, my goals, but as a manager you're looking out for the flight."

The day was filled with challenges for everyone involved but Smith said he knew the greatest challenge would be for the Airmen.

"I think the younger Airmen will [have problems] because the SNCOs have already been in their shoes," said Smith.  "The equipment probably has changed a little bit but the job is still the same. But for the younger Airman ... it's like 'ahh' just put me back in the truck because I can't handle all of the intangibles that happen up at the top level."

Smith deemed the fundraiser a success and challenged other squadrons on base to implement it.

"It is physical at the bottom but it's mental and strategic at the top, said Smith. " A lot of Airmen don't  understand that so hopefully with this fundraiser  at least a couple of Airmen can see that maybe these SNCOs are doing a little bit more than they give them credit for."