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Air University Highlight: Shaping leadership for the challenges of tomorrow

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Richard Ebensberger
  • 42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In the dynamic and ever-evolving landscape of military leadership, one name stands out for his dedication to cultivating the next generation of strategic thinkers: Chief Master Sgt. Jason P. Blair.

As a Chief Master Sergeant Leadership Course instructor assigned the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy, Blair plays a pivotal role in bridging the gap between strategic direction and tactical execution.

Supporting the Mission: From Strategic Direction to Tactical Action

"Our mission is to help newly promoted chiefs bridge strategic direction to tactical action," Blair said. "We achieve this by developing critical thinking skills, increasing threat IQ, and aligning our formations' efforts with emerging doctrine and national strategy."

One of the innovative tools incorporated into the curriculum is Kingfish Agile Combat Employment, a wargaming exercise designed by U.S. Air Force Col. Troy Pierce as part of a Marine Corps War College project. This game provides an abstract representation for ACE, challenging students to navigate complexities such as the tyranny of distance, logistics under attack, aircraft and load capacity limitations and the management of limited resources. Through this experience, Chief Blair and his team hope to equip students with the insights needed to organize, train and equip their units for future challenges.

Embracing AI for Enhanced Learning

In early spring 2024, the Academy was approached by the Air University Innovation Accelerator to explore the potential of artificial intelligence in facilitating gameplay.

"Kingfish ACE requires students to think outside the box, often devising solutions not found in any AFI [Air Force Instruction], T.O. [Technical Order], or doctrine," Blair said. "Through multiple trials, we've leveraged AI to help students better assess the risks associated with their out of the box ideas."

The integration of AI, specifically Generative Pre-trained Transformer technology, has enhanced the realism and educational value of the wargame. Facilitators can now adjudicate moves more accurately, and the AI's evolving capabilities provide valuable support to both instructors and students.

A Personal Journey of Service and Dedication

Blair's journey into military service began out of necessity but evolved into a profound commitment to defending American values.

"I initially joined because I lost my college scholarship and didn't have many options," said Blair. "It took a few more years of service, but eventually, I reached a point where I mentally joined because of how strongly I believed in defending and protecting American values, not to mention my love of airpower."

Inspiration to Remain in Service

What keeps Blair motivated is the opportunity to work alongside exceptional individuals during critical times.

"I get to work with amazing people doing awesome things every day. No matter where I was, it always seemed I was in the right place at the right time for the task at hand," Blair said.

Connecting to the Bigger Picture

For Blair, serving in the Air Force is both a privilege and a responsibility.

"There is no greater privilege and sobering responsibility than helping to arm Airmen with the skills and knowledge needed for the next fight,” he said. “Our mission directly contributes to the broader objectives of the Air Force and the Department of Defense, ensuring our forces are prepared for any challenge."

Overcoming Challenges

The path has not been without challenges.

"My first two years in the Air Force were a doozy," Blair said. From navigating the aftermath of 9/11 to unexpected deployments and relocations, Blair and his wife faced numerous obstacles. Yet, through resilience and adaptability, they embraced the military life, finding it to be a fulfilling journey.

Words of Wisdom and Leadership

Reflecting on his experiences, Blair offers valuable advice to his younger self and aspiring leaders.

"Don't rush life; it goes by faster than you realize," he said.

His top three tips for success are to:

1. Value.  Value the person, the interaction, the task, the situation. We remember and care about what we value.

2. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  There will be many times where you are given the choice to stay comfortable or do something outside the norm that stretches you.  Get stretched.

3. Be a humble narcissist.  A humble narcissist has the confidence they can do great things and the humility to know their ideas/performance are never perfect.