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Top tier of enlisted supervision

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Stephanie Morris
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
This is the final installment of a three part series describing the roles and views of different supervisors in each tier of Air Force enlisted leadership.

Master Sgt. Kelly Barrett, 5th Bomb Wing NCO in charge of command and control operations, has been in the Air Force for more than 18 years, many of which he has spent as a supervisor at various command posts.

"I was 20 years old when I joined," said the Kansas native. "I was living in Wichita at the time, working for a handful of sales companies. I realized that I needed to make a career-type move."

In 1996, Barrett started his career in the Air Force working at the 623rd Air Mobility Squadron command post on Ramstein Air Base, Germany. By the time he reached the rank of senior Airman, he had already had his first taste of supervising.

While stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, he began leading and teaching his peers, many of who shared the same dormitory building with him.

"I learned to separate work from personal time," Barrett explained. "I also found ways to let people know why I was making that distinction."

Barrett attained the rank of staff sergeant in 2000 while he was stationed in the Netherlands. While there, he supervised two Airmen and worked alongside a captain, a technical sergeant and a master sergeant at a munitions site.

He started learning a new job at the site. Being in charge of new people and completing the mission was a challenge. The mission was a high-priority environment as opposed to Langley, where his duties could be completed at a slower pace.

He was also learning new things about supervising as an NCO that he hadn't experienced while he was an Airman.

"As an Airman, you say that you want to do things different. You don't want to be like your parents or teachers," Barrett said. "As an NCO, you learn why some things need to be the way they are, and communication is huge no matter what career field you're in."

Barrett felt it was always important to inform his Airmen of the reason behind his decisions; why they were impacted; why he was choosing a particular direction and why they did things a certain way.

Once he reached the role of master sergeant, Barrett continued to further his experience supervising others and to grow as a leader. While stationed in Hawaii, he learned the Air Force stands apart from other branches of the military in leadership style.

"In the Army and Navy, there often isn't time to ask why," Barrett said. "However, Airmen are able to ask questions more often and build a foundation for themselves early on."

Before beginning the mission, it is important for leaders to build a strong foundation with their troops by informing them of what is expected, Barrett explained. Educating Airmen on the values and expectations of their unit allows them to perform at their best.

He also stated that leadership goes beyond the uniform, and in order to be the most help to their Airmen it is important for leaders to possess knowledge of not only policies and procedures, but also the big picture of the Air Force and their unit.

There is a wide array of things that shape a person as a supervisor, Barrett said. Location, career field and personal experiences all play a role in the way a person leads and instructs their Airmen.

He explained that a person needs to draw on their acquired knowledge of their job and the Air Force in order to effectively lead their people.

"Leaders don't always make the right decisions," Barrett said. "But good leaders know how to make the decision right."