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Maxwell arms the ‘Lethal Backbone’ of the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Greydon Furstenau
  • 42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The 42nd Air Base Wing has a new program designed to arm noncommissioned officers with the tools they need to be successful.

Operation Lethal Backbone is a three-day course for new junior NCOs. The course seeks to prepare them for the challenges they will face as they prepare Airmen for combat by solidifying the foundations of leadership while under duress, energy management, emotional intelligence and leadership feedback.

At the end of the course, held March 20-22, 2024, the Airmen were inducted into the NCO Corps by affirming the Department of the Air Force NCO Charge, a first done here in more than 30 years. 

Each day the course began with a "Legacy of Valor" workout, where a hero who inspires others was highlighted. Airman 1st Class Elizabeth Jacobson, a security forces Airman killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was among those honored. These workouts were designed to foster trust and camaraderie among the team and energy management, while also paying tribute to the honorees’ legacy.

Classroom material focused on Airmen Leadership Qualities, Major Performance Areas, and navigating the challenges of leadership. Artificial intelligence was used to simulate difficult conversations and reflective practices on simulated real-world incidents.  These scenarios covered equity vs. equality in the workplace, religious freedom, communication shortfalls and mission command.

The course also included time for the Airmen to share experiences, study the profession of arms and develop their personal “why.” This allowed them to see different leadership styles from different units and provided context and insight into their challenges.

“How we lead in security forces will be different than how you lead in medical,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jason Evans, operations superintendent, 42nd Security Forces Squadron. “There are certain nuances that go with that. By bringing everyone together and having these hard conversations while using real experiences prepares them for the future.”

The next iteration of Operation Lethal Backbone will be in August following the release of the names of those who were selected for the rank staff sergeant. The course will help prepare them for Airman Leadership School, showcasing their transition toto leadership positions.

“We put a lot of emphasis on the transition from technical sergeant to a master sergeant,” said Evans. “We have an induction ceremony, and we have a banquet. We make a really big deal about it, and rightfully so. What we have failed to do is celebrate the transition from senior airman to staff sergeant in a manner that showcases that they are in fact the backbone of what we do.”