Academy's command chief: All Airmen critical in producing lieutenants

  • Published
  • By Amber Baillie
  • Academy Public Affairs
Every day at the Academy, more than 1,000 enlisted Airmen play a direct role in preparing thousands of cadets to be exceptional leaders for the Air Force and the nation, said the Academy's top NCO.

From the Academy Military Training NCOs who guide and mentor cadets to the NCOs involved with the FalconSat program who educate cadets on space innovation, every enlisted Airman here has a direct impact on cadets' future success as officers, said Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Ludwig, the Academy's command chief.

To truly understand their value, the Academy's enlisted force should focus on the long-term goal, Ludwig said.

"There's never an end-state at the Academy -- we prepare these young cadets to be lieutenants, send them out in the Air Force, and then start again," he said. "Part of the reason we have so many enlisted Airmen here is to help cadets understand the contributions of the enlisted force before they become second lieutenants."

The diversity of the enlisted force here brings different perspectives and skills to the Academy, Ludwig said.

"It's important to see the different capabilities Airmen bring to the table as well as their creativity, innovation and respect for the different roles their fellow Airmen play in meeting our mission objective: producing lieutenants for our Air Force and our nation," he said.
From the first day of his 30-year career, he's been able to see the impact of the enlisted force and the importance of teamwork.

"It's really important to value your team in the Air Force," he said. "One thing the Air Force provides is change. It doesn't matter whether we've got the greatest team or the worst -- we know we're going to turn around tomorrow and it's going to change. My best advice to our enlisted force here is make sure you're doing the best you can every day, be proactive and continue to move the ball forward and perfect your craft."

Ludwig said reflection during an Airman's career allows personal growth.

"It's essential to take a critical look at what we're doing and what we've accomplished because there's always room for improvement," Ludwig said. "If we don't, we can't get better because we don't know where to go. We need to set a new target in front of us so we can keep moving in the right direction."

Ludwig believes in critically evaluating Academy processes.

"It's important to fix things at the lowest level and continually identify areas we can improve," he said. "The beautiful thing about what I do here is that it's different every day. I focus my attention on meeting Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson's intent and directives for the Academy. My position as command chief allows me to communicate with our leaders and be able to say 'This is something I see we have a problem with - let's address it now.'"

Academy NCOs should continue to focus on what they provide the Academy and the Air Force, Ludwig said.

"We need to ask ourselves 'What does the Air Force need from the Academy?'" he said. "We need to make sure we're producing officers who represent the Academy and the Air Force well because we've invested the time, effort and energy into making sure they're going to be a great lieutenant."

Character and leadership development occur in every moment of Academy life, Ludwig said.

"Whether it's mentoring in the dormitories, a faculty member talking to a cadet about their future or in a Cadet Wing training effort, it's important to help cadets understand the challenging issues they'll face as leaders once they enter the big Air Force," he said.

Academy life for cadets is not about one singular lesson - it's about how they live their entire life, Ludwig said.

"The decisions they make reflect who they are as a person and if they really want to be a leader of character, they need to live by the Honor Code we work to instill here," he said.
Improving the relationship between the cadets and enlisted force here is always on the chief's mind.

"There's a good relationship between our enlisted force and the cadets but we should continue to make it stronger," he said. "I love that the Athletic Department, Dean of Faculty, Cadet Wing and 10th Air Base Wing work together, but we should continue to work on building a comprehensive team across our entire organization."
Ludwig said enlisted personnel should never doubt their impact.

"There's going to be a cadet who will someday become the chief of staff of the Air Force and that Airman can say 'I had a direct part in that,'" he said.