When you cross over as an NCO in the Air Force and you slap that crisp Staff Sergeant rank on your arms, it might be easy to think you just garnered a new set of rights and privileges.
Unfortunately, the rights and privileges are few and far between. Inevitably, the newly-acquired responsibility weighs on fresh NCOs, causing them to cut corners and develop unsuccessful habits.
1. Not completing your professional military education
The Air Force requires each of its NCOs to complete PME according to their rank and skill level. These courses are usually held in other locations rather than at home base. NCOs also get book-length volumes to study at home. Up until recently, PME wasn't so much a factor in an NCO's career. Now, if an NCO hasn't completed the required PME course for their rank, they will not promote. Did you read that? Will not promote.
Get to reading, Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Nieves Camacho)
This means that a staff sergeant who doesn't complete their PME will never become a tech and might even be subject to discharge. Air Force NCOs are moving along with the times but there are still many who fight the change and remain perpetual staffs or techs until they retire. Nobody wants to be 20 years in and retire at E-5. Get your PME done!
2. Not completing their CCAF degree
Okay, the Air Force didn't say being an NCO would be easy – heck, they're making you go to college. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does stop many airmen from promoting to the next rank. The Community College of the Air Force is relatively new and accepts all previous credit from prior institutions to transfer into the degree.
Better late than never.
It's pretty easy to get a CCAF degree because the majority of all the credits are calculated from tech school training. Typically, the only credits NCOs are missing are college-level math and English. However, most NCOs are entirely deterred by this and choose not to obtain the last couple of credits needed to complete the degree. Without a CCAF degree, kiss your chances of becoming a Master Sergeant (E-7) goodbye.
3. Thinking that you're not expendable
You might think an extra stripe opens the door to being treated better, but think again. Remember that phrase, "sh*t always rolls downhill?" Well, you're only a quarter of the way up the hill now instead of all the way at the bottom. Some newly-promoted NCOs think they are finally afforded some glory because they're allowed to delegate to those under them.
If you're going to be a staff forever, you might as well just stay Senior Airman.
Wrong. Air Force NCOs quickly learn they are still in the pecking order for meaningless cleaning details and bi*ch work. Plus, there are many more staffs where you came from, buddy. Leadership won't think twice about demoting someone on a high horse. Before anyone knows it, you become the stereotypical, bitter NCO who sits in the corner, hating the world — unless you can change your frame of mind.
4. Just skimming by PT standards every six months
The Air Force PT test is fairly easy and is based on a point system. A mile and a half run, waist measurement, push-ups, and sit-ups are all a part of the test. If you pull a 90-point (or above) cumulative score, then you don't have to take the fitness test again for a year. If the score is lower than 90, then the test has to be taken again in six months.
To be honest, everyone has done it.
What this means for Air Force NCOs is a tendency to procrastinate. NCOs are meant to set standards for the subordinates under them, but when the PFT is so easy it requires minimal preparation, setting standards usually goes out the window. When it comes down to it, there's really no excuse for not getting a 90-point score on the Air Force PFT.
Break the habit and just go work out.