Face of Defense: Airman Builds Future Leaders
By Air Force Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
374th Airlift Wing
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan, Jan. 14, 2013 Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Gambles is familiar with leadership.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Joseph Gambles provides drill instruction to Senior Airman Kevin Gutierrez at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Jan. 9, 2013. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cody H. Ramirez
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
As a professional military education instructor for the Airman Leadership School here, Gambles ensures the Air Force is stocked with reliable noncommissioned officers to mold airmen into future leaders.
The Airman Leadership School program is a six-week course enlisted airmen must complete before assuming the rank of staff sergeant. Gambles said the course makes airmen better leaders by giving them the skills needed to be effective supervisors.
"My job as an instructor is to be a living extension of the ALS curriculum that students are responsible to read," Gambles said. "That is to say, if the students cannot grasp the material from the reading alone, I apply different methods of presentation until the student can comprehend it."
Air Force Senior Airman Robert Tangen, a 374th Medical Operations Squadron allergy and immunizations technician and current ALS student, said Gambles has an approachable and open teaching style, while still commanding authority as an instructor.
"If you do not understand something or you need clarification, [Gambles] is good at breaking it down and making it understandable," Tangen said. "You are not afraid to approach him, and you never feel like you have a stupid question.
"It really shows his professionalism overall, being approachable in that manner," Tangen added. "Gambles shows you what type of person you would want to be in a supervisory position."
Gambles said his goal is to allow students to see they are capable of becoming great supervisors and leaders.
"In-residence ALS is of the utmost importance, because these members are crossing into a new tier where they are going to be responsible for supervising other airmen," he said. "This course really highlights for them the weight of that responsibility while, at the same time, equipping them to face that challenge."
Gambles said that without this training, new NCOs can fall into one of the two extremes on the supervisory spectrum: being too strict or being a buddy rather than a leader. Most new NCOs think leadership is too far a destination to reach, he added, but by the time they graduate from ALS, they are well informed on what they need to do.
The curriculum includes one-on-one counseling, setting standards, evaluating and providing feedback, methods of motivating and how to produce quality written products. The program exposes the students to dozens of leadership philosophies and motivational theories, techniques to manage time and stress, group dynamics, human diversity and joint operations.
"What makes the learning experience complete is that students must incorporate concepts of time, stress and conflict management," the instructor said. "They need to actually be a better communicator, not only for briefings, but to actually function as a team."
Gambles said the highlight of his work is witnessing the moments when students realize their potential to be effective supervisors and become aware of the difference they can make in their subordinates’ lives.
A conviction to do right by their airmen is the most important ideal a supervisor can maintain, Gambles said, adding that the lack of this conviction in many supervisors drove him to become an instructor.
"All across the service, there are members with mediocre to poor supervisors, and that was severely affecting how they, in turn, would supervise," he said. "After I graduated from the NCO Academy in December 2010, I realized I had strength in public speaking. I felt I could use this talent to help others and attempt to send a higher-quality supervisor back to the units."
Tangen noted that ALS focuses on leading by example and Gambles is able to be that example the students can look up to while they are learning.
"We can look back and think, 'He did it that way,' and try to emulate that style that he sets being an instructor, or basically a supervisor, for this course," Tangen said.
Every class evolves into a team during the course, Gambles said. It always is a pleasure to see service members "going from conflicting with one another to building friendships that will last for years,” he added.
The pride and unity that culminate on graduation night for the students and staff “never gets old," he said.