Special duties: The key to career advancement

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
There are an abundance of opportunities that come with being an enlisted member of the United States Air Force.

Whether those prospects are sought out in pursuit of career development, improving skills or opening up options for the future, in the end, the experience gained is important to developing well-rounded leaders.

Airmen fresh out of basic military training soon learn that doors open with a little diligence and foresight. As Airmen progress through the ranks, even more opportunities become available for professional development.

Through the Air Force's Developmental Special Duty Assignment program (DSD), eligible Airmen can serve in a position that allows them to gain experience outside of their primary career field, while mentoring the next generation of Airman leaders.

"Most Airmen look for an opportunity to work in a professional development environment outside their normal Air Force Specialty Code," said Master Sgt. John De La Rosa, 509th Force Support Squadron career assistance advisor. "Others look for self-development and career enhancement. All Airmen should seek the opportunity to fill a DSD assignment at least once in their career. Overall, it's rewarding and will provide a wide perspective about the Air Force and its Airmen."

No matter where you are in your career, there is always room to expand on leadership techniques. With a special duty assignment, an Airman can serve a four-year period in a position that prepares them to one day hold even greater responsibilities. Airmen should also keep in mind that, based on the needs of the Air Force, their tour of duty may be extended beyond that time frame. 

"Airmen stand to gain a lot from filling a DSD assignment," said De La Rosa. "For most, they learn about themselves in a different way by being in a different environment.

"They will learn their strengths as well as their weaknesses," added De La Rosa. "They will learn new ways to lead, inspire, motivate and develop, in addition to a new level of understanding about what being an Airman really means. It's no longer about the 'nuts and bolts' of the job, it's about people developing and taking care of people."

Staff sergeants, technical sergeants and master sergeants must adhere to high standards in order to be considered for nomination. A few of these qualifications include past enlisted performance reports, physical training scores, rank, a Community College of the Air Force degree, and even restrictions on height.

"The Air Force is looking for individuals that represent Air Force core values and discipline," said De La Rosa. "They are looking for someone who possesses character and has the desire to develop Airmen and their families through mentorship and leadership."

Some of the positions eligible Airmen can look into include: career assistance advisor, military training instructor, military training leader, U.S. Air Force Academy Military Training non-commissioned officer (NCO), Airman and Family Readiness NCO, first sergeant, U.S. Air Force Honor Guard NCO, recruiter, professional military education instructor and Air Force specialty training instructor.

When considering being nominated, Airmen should look at what they have to offer and if they embody what it takes to lead others.

"Airmen who want to stand out should be a servant leader; ones whose actions, decisions and behavior is a reflection of that person's character and professionalism," said De La Rosa. "Commanders are looking to nominate individuals that cultivate the virtues of decency, fairness, honesty, humility, integrity and valor through the member's actions."

As with many programs, a lot of knowledge comes from word of mouth. However, some information can get lost in translation, and Airmen could develop misunderstandings.

"The common misconception about the process is that some Airmen think they are prepared for a particular DSD," said De La Rosa. "While most possess some experiences that will help them in their DSD assignment, all the special duties provide a rich experience that will develop them to be a better follower, leader and mentor upon completion. The focus of these special duties is not just about people taking care of people, but also to enhance a member's knowledge and further career growth.

"The other misconception Airmen have concerns the difference between being submitted and being selected for a DSD, which may cause frustration with the system when not selected," said De La Rosa. "DSD is a repetitive process much like the assignment system. Airmen who were not selected for DSD in the previous cycles will be nominated during the subsequent cycles to come."

By being proactive, service members who one day plan on holding a special duty assignment can focus on becoming a better candidate. On the other hand, service members who think they are eligible for a DSD are highly encouraged to look into the resources offered on base.

The career assistance advisor is hosting a developmental special duty panel made up of some of Whiteman's finest to share their special duty experiences Sept. 8, 2015 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Ford Auditorium in the Professional Development Center.

There, expert information about all 10 career fields will be discussed to help prepare Airmen to take on such challenging and rewarding opportunities.

Supervisors, flight commanders and squadron commanders are also encouraged to attend, as they are a vital part of the process.

For those interested in attending, the instructions to register are as follows:

1. Log onto the SharePoint: https://cs3.eis.af.mil/sites/AC-DP-00-65
2. Find "Developmental Special Duty Panel" located on the left side of the webpage under the "Course Registration" heading.
3. Choose which course you wish to attend by clicking the on the left side of the course description, and follow the registration directions.

For a more thorough outline of what to expect during the nomination and selection process, Airmen can refer to the myPers website, https://mypers.af.mil, and search for PSDM 15-15.

Eligible Airmen can also contact the career assistance advisor at 660-687-7829 to see if there's a special duty assignment right for them.