My experience at the AFA convention

Senior Airman Mae Cortez (left), a Physical Therapy Technician with the 90th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass (center), and Airman 1st Class Rendora Munson, a Financial Operations Technician with the 90th Comptroller Squadron, pose for a picture at the Air Force Association's 2021 Air, Space and Cyber Conference. The conference featured many speakers who spoke on the theme of this years conference; "Air and Space Leadership for our Nation: Today and Tomorrow." (Courtesy photo provided by Airman 1st Class Rendora Munson)

My leadership sent me to the Air Force Association’s 2021 Air, Space and Cyber Conference in North Harbor, Md. The theme for this year was “Air and Space Leadership for Our Nation: Today and Tomorrow.” A lineup of leaders joined the event, including Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. Raymond, Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass, and Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force Roger Towberman. It also featured speakers including senior military leaders and some spouses, industry experts, Airline CEO, an author and a lot more.

There were also more than a hundred booths from exhibitors showing vanguards in the defense industry as well as other businesses and organizations that service and support Airmen, Guardians and families. One cool thing I experienced was being able to do the F-35 simulator.

More than 12,500 Air Force and Space Force officers, enlisted members, civilians, veterans and defense industry leaders and representatives registered for the event.

A reporter from a radio station in Washington, D.C. interviewed me regarding the live, in-person AFA event while Covid-19 is still prevalent and cases are increasing. I answered that I was just keeping my faith not to get the virus and I know that the organizers are making sure that attendees are adhering to strict DAF mask and vaccination requirements.

The conference brought together top Air Force and Space Force leadership, industry experts, and government officials to discuss critical technology topics and the challenges facing the aerospace and cyber communities today and in the future. To be honest, a lot of the subjects covered were way above my head, and some were the first time I’d heard of them. This was a professional development event and for a new Airman like me, this was a great opportunity to gain knowledge, expand my perspective, boost my confidence, network and open my eyes to the possibility of future career changes. 

 

“All Airmen have a role in shaping our future. Together we will succeed!”
Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force

 

I work as a Financial Operations Technician. I work in an office and I remember being told that my job is not that hard and not as essential as those who have fancier AFSCs. The AFA event was attended by different people from different types of jobs in the Air Force and Space Force from the ranks of E3, or maybe even E1, to O10. The AFA made me feel welcome and that no matter what I do or how small others think it is, I too, is part of something big. I am part of the United States Air Force.

My thinking is that, a team is like the human body and how a human body works is also how a team should work. Each and every one of us has a different and important role to play. Each one has to function to keep the whole body moving and achieving.

While I felt small being in that place as just being an Airman 1st Class, it felt surreal that there were more Generals than my rank. I was starstruck! I saw more stars than the stripes on my chevron. Not only that, we were able to have conversations and picture taking with the “Hollywood Stars” of the Air Force, as a former 90th Missile Wing Commander puts it.

As Filipinos say it, “Marami pa akong kakaining bigas.” or “I still have to eat plenty of rice. I still have very long ways to go to be where they’re at.” That was what on my mind. While joining the military was my only dream, now I’m aiming for something more, higher, bigger and brighter. I have to develop a goal, timeline, find a mentor, take advantage of any and every learning opportunity to be able to grow and advance my life and career.

The TDY was also a chance to network. I’m normally shy, but the people I was around made me feel at ease, but not overly comfortable, as I was still maintaining respect and high regards to them.

I was with an amazing wingman, Senior Airman Mae Cortez. She was so easy to go along with and I enjoyed our time there. It’s not also an everyday chance that I will be able to talk with the leadership of the 90th Missile Wing, yet we had conversations, was able to visit museums and even ride e-scooters. 

During the Air Force Global Strike command meet with General Cotton, he asked what I thought about the conference and I told him what I felt I needed to say about it. I said it in the room, but what was unexpected is getting coined by Major General Lutton. That was one of my highlights during the TDY.

 

“Leadership is about trust and empowerment.”
-Gen. Charles Q. Brown

 

I am grateful to my leadership for giving me an opportunity to attend the conference. When I think confined only to my workspace on a daily basis, they see and do something more for the Airmen. While our present adversary – China – has an authoritarian leadership, the U.S. Air Force has an empowerment leadership based on trust that creates a continuous impact and help Airmen to fully realize their own capacity and power.

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