The lasting change: adapting and learning

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jessica Roles
  • 189th Airlift Wing

Today’s Air Force is changing rapidly. Being an Airman means more than simply knowing your job. Your responsibilities often lie outside your comfort zone and expectations are higher than ever. With deployments on the rise, morale sometimes hard to find, and the constant awareness of personalities or changes of Wingmen around you, adapting to a fast-paced and ever-changing environment is essential to keeping your mind sharp and staying focused. One Guardsman embraced this significant change during a recent deployment.

During his deployment, Master Sgt. Jon Landers, a 189th Aerialport Flight Air Transportation Specialist, stepped into the role of advisor, leading a squadron of Iraqi Air Force Aerialporters to success and a better understanding of their role as C-130 experts. Landers, in his normal job capacity, loads and unloads cargo aircraft among other things. During his deployment, he advised more than six individuals directly instructing them in loading cargo and vehicles onto their aircraft.

“It was a great opportunity to teach our Air Force best practices with our international partner,” said Landers. “We had one-on-one time which enabled us to build trust and develop a good relationship. They were extremely receptive to everything we had to teach them. It was one of the best deployments I’ve ever had.”

As trained air advisors, Landers and several others spent time over several months, developing a significant lead in trust with each Iraqi service member they worked with. Emphasizing the importance of this, Landers also expressed that they would have gotten nowhere without this relationship-building experience. Without trust and a certain level of comfort with each other, both countries’ goal of sustainability would not have been met. The team developed a curriculum with the Iraqi Airmen, based on the one they used at home. Going over multiple processes and teaching the Aerialporters to work with the loadmasters, the best practices helped them learn instruction techniques to teach others down the road.

“Our main objective down there was to ensure the sustainability of Iraq,” he said. “We need them to know that we are here to help and they can trust us. We really do care. They have to be able to take care of their service members, assets and aircraft. We had trust and a good relationship, therefore they were extremely receptive to what we were trying to help them accomplish.”

Landers talked about the lasting effect of the Air National Guard’s influence on the Iraqi nation. Giving context to the big picture, he emphasized the importance of continual relationship-building. He expressed that working together helps the Iraqi military realize their potential and encourages independence from negative influence. Mentorship and teaching through commonalities set the bar high and leads by positive example.