The U.S. Space Force held a Senior and Chief Orientation Course for senior master sergeants and chief master sergeants at the Gen. Jacob Smart Conference Center on Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, April 1-5.

This is the first time the orientation course has included Guardians selected for senior enlisted leader roles for senior master sergeants and the second time for chief master sergeants from across the service.

The five-day course provided attendees with a shared outlook to help them prepare to step into new SEL positions and expands last year’s Chief Orientation Course, which was for chief master sergeants only.

“First, congratulations,” Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman said at the start of the course. “There’s going to be a lot riding on this group of leaders in the next few years. Not everybody is up to it. Not everybody is willing to do it, but you raised your hands and said, ‘I’ll do it,’ so thank you.”

The decision to expand the course was based on the increased roles and responsibilities SELs may fill at an earlier stage in their careers due to the service’s small size.

“The Space Force has a little over 50 chiefs,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Space Force John F. Bentivegna. “We have to be very deliberate with who is going to each position, and many of our senior enlisted advisor positions are held by senior master sergeants. Each person here brings a different perspective. Leverage and appreciate different perspectives than your own to solve problems.”

The course provided participants with tools to excel in their new leadership roles by fostering collaboration through group discussion. The goal was to provide a foundation for success by establishing an ongoing network for innovation and adaptability.

“I think this course is amazing,” said Senior Master Sgt. Steven Byrd, a course participant. “As soon-to-be senior enlisted leaders, at a squadron level for most of us in this course, it helped us get a different perspective. This course has given us a different perspective on what Space Force leadership is thinking and the why.”

The event opened with an hour-long question-and-answer session between the participants and Saltzman. He discussed the challenges Guardians face every day and offered insights into emerging capabilities within the Space Force.

In addition to Saltzman and Bentivegna, attendees interacted with a variety of other senior leaders from around the Space Force and the Department of Defense, including Deputy Chief of Space Operations for Human Capital Katharine Kelley and the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Troy E. Black, the top enlisted member of the military.

“It’s incredible that we have the ability to bring all the senior and chief selects to sit down and talk with our senior leaders like CSO, CMSSF, and Katharine Kelley, along with DoD leaders like SEAC [Black], and all of those individuals, on a more intimate scale than what would be possible for any other service,” said Master Sgt. Ashlee Robards, a course participant.

Byrd said the limited size of the Space Force is an advantage in this case because it provides future SELS from across the service the opportunity to all meet together in a close setting and discuss each other’s challenges firsthand.

“Because we’re so small, it’s a strength,” Byrd said. “Every day, we can shape how our force will move in the future, and hearing directly from our senior leaders helps us to understand what their objectives are and convey that directly to our Guardians.”

Bentivegna closed the first day of the event with a discussion emphasizing the importance of investing in people. He encouraged participants to work with each other to help develop the future of the service as they progress as SELs.

“If all of the plans come from the headquarters, I think we’re going to get more wrong than right,” Saltzman said. “But if the vision comes from the headquarters, and we resource to that vision—if we encourage all of you at your level to meet that vision and we’re encouraging when all the ideas start coming in—that’s the entrepreneurial way to do this.”
 

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