News | Aug. 4, 2019

Growing New Leaders

By Interview conducted by Christina MCCutcheon, SMSgt, USAF 940th Air Refueling Wing

The Air Force program designed to identify outstanding enlisted Airmen who would be a good fit for becoming officers has changed from the Deserving Airman Commissioning Program to the Individual Reservist Non-Extended Active Duty Airman Commissioning Program. 

Capt. Joshua Bates, a reservist at Beale AFB for 10 years, went through the program a few years ago and was open to sharing his story to help anyone interested in learning about the process.  When he enlisted in the Air Force at age 22, he knew he wanted to become an officer.

“During my first enlistment I got my bachelor’s degree knocked out and it was a dream of mine to get that accomplished,” said Bates. He started his career as a boom operator on KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft, which he loved.

“It was by far the coolest job in the Air Force, I still think, but it is not conducive to family. I wanted to have a family, so I got out of that and went into intelligence and I have been various forms of intel since then.” 

Bates and his wife, Jessica, a technical sergeant with the 314 Air Refueling Squadron have 2 daughters with another child on the way.

1. What made you decide to participate in the Airman Commissioning Program?

I knew I wanted to be an officer from the first little bit of being enlisted. During my first enlistment I got my bachelor’s knocked out and it was a dream of mine to accomplish.

2. How long did the process take you from the decision to participate to becoming a lieutenant & what steps were involved?

The whole process took a long time. It took about 2 ½ years. I decided I was going to pursue it, so I took the (Air Force Officer Qualifying Test). It took me two months to get everything squared away for the board package to get the signatures and letters of recommendation. I met the Deserving Airman Commissioning Board. Then there was a myriad of steps after that such as getting paperwork straightened out, getting the right letters of recommendation and completing forms. Getting all of the medical stuff took a considerable amount of time. Finally, finding a unit that wants to hire you and is willing to hold the position for you, because the billet has to be open on the (Unit Manning Document) for you to fill it and go to school, so it is a big commitment from the unit. Once I got that done, it was just waiting for a school date.

3. Did you have a mentor that helped or guided you through the process?

I did. I had a lieutenant who had gone through a year or two before me that I reached out to a lot of times for help with different paperwork and a general idea that he had done it so I knew that I could do it. Especially in the parts where you are really struggling with bureaucracy and trying to get through the red tape to get things done and it can be daunting. It is super helpful to have a mentor; somebody who has gone through the process before you.

4. What is your current job and what do you like/dislike about it?

I am currently the interim senior intelligence officer for the 940th Air Refueling Wing. It is an amazing job, because I get to make decisions that affect people in a positive way. I get to inject my idea of what a unit or shop is supposed to be like and how we take care of one another, how we work together, how we come together to meet the mission goals. I get to influence that and decide on the direction it goes, so that is super cool. Intel in itself is just a really neat job, because we see stuff on the news all the time and wonder what’s really going on there and being in intel teaches you some techniques and tools to figure out what is actually going on.

5. Has this been your job since you became an officer or have you had to move around?

I got a job with 940th Intel as the 940th Wing was shutting down and the 940th Air Refueling Wing was standing up, so I was in a unique position to be able to assist with the shutdown and I had the boom operator and Intel experience to be able to help stand up the refueling wing. I was also a trougher (Traditional Reservist who works a lot of active-duty, so I did move around. I filled in for an active-duty flight commander for about a year and a half. I was the intelligence flight commander for the 12 Refueling Squadron here on base. It was the same kind of thing; molding that shop, growing those Airmen and leading that Intel shop in a direction to get actionable, useful intel to people so they could make decisions.

6. What do you find most rewarding about being an officer?

I love the ability to take care of people and to ensure that the people that work for me have a clear path, free of obstacles. In my opinion, an officer’s job is to create an environment in which their enlisted can thrive, so that is my favorite part; making an organization or culture or climate that allows for people to thrive.

7. What is the biggest difference between being an officer and an enlisted member?

Both are very difficult and “others” oriented. As an enlisted person, I made it to tech sergeant, and I was always worried about what the people above me wanted and what they needed me to do. As an officer, I do the same thing, except instead of looking at those above me, I am often looking at those who work for me and say what do these guys need in order to make them able to do their job? How can I make things better for these people? It is a focus on the doer rather than the manager.

8. If you could go back in time, would you commission again?


9. If you could share one piece of advice with an Airman who is considering participating, what would it be?

Understand that this is going to be a long process and it’s something that you really have to want for you to be able to finish. I think there were five people on my DACP board, I think we were all accepted, and I’m the only one who followed it through.  Be prepared that this is not as simple as “you meet a board and you are now an officer.” There is a lot of other stuff that goes along with it.  Make sure it is what you want to do.  There is a lot of management and bureaucracy and politics when you get onto the officer side and if what you want to be is a technician, then this is not the job for you.  If you want the chance to lead people, to hopefully be an inspiration to people, and to ensure that others become the best that they can be and you can help them get there, then absolutely, pursue it and follow it through.