Airmen learn to LEAD

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lane T. Plummer
  • 86 Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Airman 1st Class Dillon Fowler and Senior Airman Ryan Pastor started their days with an abrupt notification they weren't going to report straight to work. They had someone waiting for them elsewhere.

Both received a call to report to their commanders' offices as fast as possible.

Moments later, they were standing in front of their commanders.

"We had no idea what was going on," said Fowler, 86th Communications Squadron cable maintenance technician. "I was thinking back and thought, 'Well, I don't remember doing anything wrong.'"

With just a few words, both Airmen were told they were selected to become soon-to-be cadets through the Leaders Encouraging Airman Development program at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

"I didn't make the list of direct entries, so I didn't expect to make it," said Pastor, 460th Space Communications Squadron radio frequency transmissions system journeyman. "I was a little nervous, but mostly excited."

Every year, Airmen who meet the Academy's requirements to apply are nominated through the highly selective LEAD program, where Airmen who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities and excellent work ethic are nominated to commission via the Academy. Airmen are either sent straight into the Academy or through a one-year preparatory school prior to attending the Academy.

Capt. Melanie Frost, executive officer for the Area 730th Academy Admissions Liaison Officers, believes Airmen accepted through this program are a grade above other entering cadets.

"Typically, prior enlisted become the class presidents of their classes," explains Frost. "They demonstrate a lot of peer leadership, and their peers look up to them."

Fowler and Pastor both come from small town lifestyles (Bath, New York and Byron, California respectively). Both were raised as hard workers, normally found tweaking and fixing up projects of their own. This aspect of their lives carried over to their Air Force careers.

"I'll miss working here. I love to work. I've grown up my whole life working," explained Fowler. "It'll be different managing a lot of people instead of always working hands-on."

However, neither Airman has regrets about moving his career forward. Both have a positive outlook on where their careers and futures are heading.

"I guess the part I'm looking forward to most is being able to see good leadership and to take what I've learned here and what I'm going to learn and apply it toward helping people steer themselves in the right direction and do my job the best I can," Pastor said.

Pastor hopes it will be he who is sitting in an office staring at one of his Airmen, ready to promote him or her to the Academy. It'll be a moment when he knows he has succeeded in being an officer.

With just a few words, he'll have changed an Airman forever.