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Shadow program allows Airman to see Air Force through chiefs' eyes

  • Published
  • By Robert Goetz
  • Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs
An Airman from the 902nd Contracting Squadron saw a "bigger picture of the Air Force" last week when he spent a day with one of the highest-ranking senior NCOs at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

Airman 1st Class William Underhill, 902nd CONS contracting specialist, experienced a day in the life of Chief Master Sgt. Gerardo Tapia, Air Education and Training Command command chief master sergeant, as part of the JBSA-Randolph Shadow Program. The program allows enlisted members, from airmen basic to senior master sergeant, to learn about the Air Force through a chief's perspective.

"Spending the day with Chief Tapia gave me a bigger picture of the Air Force - not just my job and my squadron," Underhill said. "I saw how his job affects so many areas. It was a great mentorship experience."

Underhill's day with Tapia began bright and early the morning of Aug. 29 when the pair set off at 6 a.m. on a 3-mile run, followed by a workout at the Rambler Fitness Center.

The workday began shortly before 8 a.m. when Underhill met Tapia at his office in the AETC complex.

"He talked to me about what he does and asked me questions about myself," Underhill said. "I was also able to see the things he deals with in his office."

One of the "eye-opening" experiences of Underhill's day occurred when Tapia hosted a video teleconference.

"He gave a briefing to new squadron commanders throughout AETC, and I got to sit in on that," he said. "I had never seen a briefing on that scale, with so many important individuals."

Tapia and Underhill spent the next few hours of their day together at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, where they visited the Center for the Intrepid, and JBSA-Lackland, where Tapia addressed more than 200 technical sergeants at the NCO Academy, before returning to JBSA-Randolph for another one-on-one discussion.

Underhill called his visit to the Center for the Intrepid, which provides rehabilitation for wounded warriors, "another eye-opening experience" as he witnessed the center's state-of-the-art amputee care.

Underhill, who said he would recommend the shadow program to any Airman, enjoyed his day with Tapia.

"It was great to follow Chief Tapia," he said. "He went out of his way to make me feel comfortable."

Tapia said the shadow program plays an important role in helping enlisted leaders grow their own replacements.

"While it's quite a jump from being an airman first class to the command chief of a major command, it still gives our young Airmen an opportunity to gauge the day-to-day activities of a position you might aspire to fill one day," he said.

Tapia said he and Underwood started the day running and "never slowed down."

"It was a great opportunity to spend an entire day with a young, motivated Airman and to listen to a different perspective on some very important issues," he said. "I wish him well and I hope that during our day together I might have influenced him in a positive way."

Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Martin, 902nd Mission Support Group superintendent, began the chiefs shadow program last year to "provide professional development opportunities for enlisted personnel."

"It provides enlisted Airmen the opportunity to see things from a chief's eye view," Martin said. "It also helps the shadow develop a better understanding and appreciation of the critical role senior enlisted leadership plays within our Air Force. The hope is that it will encourage them to progress in their careers and maybe even become a chief master sergeant one day."

The monthly program, which includes a nomination process, is open to Airmen and chiefs from the 902nd MSG and all mission partners at JBSA-Randolph. For more information, email