SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. -- Like a linchpin, the little fastener used to prevent a wheel from sliding off the axle, staff and technical sergeants may not be well-known, but they are indispensable. They are the middle ranks in the enlisted rank structure, essential building blocks of the enlisted force and are often the Air Force's technical experts.
More than 130 staff and technical sergeants from the Massachusetts Air National Guard and two sergeants from each New England state, gathered this week at the Southbridge Hotel & Conference Center for an inaugural 3-day workshop specifically targeted to the E-5 and E-6 ranks.
The workshop was titled "TIME" (Technical Sergeants Involved and Mentoring Enlisted Airmen) and primarily focused on building strength in enlisted mentorship, leadership, force development and diversity.
"You are tomorrow's enlisted leaders," said Chief Master Sgt. Richard MacDonald, Massachusetts State Human Resource Advisor, and Director of the TIME workshop.
"As future and present technical sergeants, I feel strongly that this period in your military career is 'where the rubber meets the ground,' where traction and direction should be happening. This workshop was set up to guide you to be better Airmen in today's Air National Guard," MacDonald said.
The highly interactive workshop helped attendees consider the characteristics of leadership, whether they are currently in leadership roles or preparing for a future leadership role. The diverse agenda also helped participants define and broaden their recognition of leadership opportunities in the Air National Guard.
"We need individuals who are going to be innovative-who are going to make the most of their opportunities," said Chief Master Sgt. Shayne Newton, Massachusetts State Command Chief. "We need them to have energy, because energy we can't create. It needs to be internal. We'll give them the skills, the training, the knowledge and the opportunities."
The sergeants heard many success stories and career advice from top enlisted Air National Guard leaders and other nationally known speakers during the workshop.
The rock-star lineup included Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, Command Chief of the Air National Guard; Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall, National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor, retired Maj. Gen. Perry Smith, Secretary of the Medal of Honor Foundation and best-selling author, and many others.
"The TIME Conference was wonderful! I met new people, reconnected with old friends, and brought home many golden nuggets of information. I really hope everyone in attendance got as much out of this training as I did," said Tech. Sgt. Tabitha Gendreau, a Massachusetts Air National Guard production recruiter.
There are more than 360 technical sergeants who are assigned to the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
"Everyone knows that the budgets are going to get tough. The missions are going to get smaller and the Air Guard is going to get smaller. Take advantage of any opportunities that come your way by making yourself more competitive for the next job than anybody," said Brig. Gen. Gary Keefe, Massachusetts Air National Guard commander (acting), during his opening remarks.