Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert

Just because you become a non-commissioned officer doesn’t mean life becomes any easier. As you rise through the ranks, the responsibilities become heavier, and the physical training is just as brutal as ever.

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Photo by Senior Airman Cliffton Dolezal

During my time in the Air Force, I’ve been lucky enough to lead two squadrons. Looking back, four years as a commander were some of the most stressful of my life, but also the most rewarding. It sounds cliché, but my job satisfaction really did come from making impacts on the lives of the people I worked with. A military leader can shape the wet clay that makes up young officers, and learn from some of the best senior noncommissioned officers in the business. I definitely learned from senior NCOs, in fact, I like to tell people they “raised” me; more than one of the good ones told me I had my head screwed on wrong at exactly the right times. It might have stung, but it made me a better officer as a result. I learned more from them than I ever did from the generals and colonels.

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