RICHMOND, Va. –
According to the Air Force Air University website, Airman Leadership School is the first level of the Enlisted Professional Military Education continuum and prepares senior airmen to be professional, warfighting airmen who can supervise and lead Air Force work teams to support the employment of airpower.
When Tara Sugimoto, materials expediter supervisor, Storage and Distribution Division, Defense Logistics Agency Aviation at Ogden, Utah, graduated from the six-week course held at Hill Air Force Base, Utah on March 24, she was not only the lone civilian amongst 42 uniformed personnel, she also became the first DLA Aviation at Ogden employee to ever do so.
“I am truly honored that I was afforded such an amazing opportunity to experience ALS as a civilian. It’s a testament to the support I have from upper leadership here at DLA Aviation at Ogden to continue growing both professionally and personally,” she said.
Sugimoto said the school put a great deal of emphasis on communication techniques and different leadership qualities that helped hone her skills and find her “why” as a leader.
Travis Nelson, chief, Storage and Distribution Division, DLA Aviation at Ogden, said Sugimoto’s experience and leadership potential led to him nominating her for ALS.
“The program provided a deserving and capable individual access to professional development that will certainly benefit our warfighters, agency and government as a whole for many years to come as she progresses through her civil service career. Tara is the future of leadership,” Nelson said in a letter nominating her for the school.
He also provided examples of Sugimoto’s impeccable support to the warfighter:
- Increased delivery response time (DRT) in her section by 4.56%
- Achieved the highest DRT rate, 98.54%, ever recorded by the major subordinate command.
“Sugimoto has shown initiative and potential to be an effective leader within the organization. In the final brief I gave her before she departed for ALS, I told her that I expected her to come out as a distinguished graduate,” Nelson said.
Her hard work and dedication in the classroom paid off. She was one of four top graduates to earn the coveted distinguished graduate title. She was also nominated for the Commandant Award by her peers.
Nelson said the COVID-19 pandemic immediately put Sugimoto’s leadership potential to the test once she returned after graduation.
“Try imagining for a moment, having to immediately implement past and newly developed leadership skills that our division required. She went from six weeks of physical training and coursework to having to flip the switch, re-enter her role as a leader during a pandemic and lead a workforce that is required to report to work each day and continue the mission. She faced a very tall challenge,” he said.
Nelson said some of the challenges Sugimoto and other division leadership faced were adjusting manpower allocation to ensure the work was still done, developing new ways of communicating more often with the workforce with any new updates and implementing safety measures that best protect the workforce and those that they support.
“It’s in moments like these that you truly find out what you are made of as a leader. Tara and her colleagues have risen to this new challenge in ensuring the safety and well-being of our workforce. They have spent the past few weeks developing and implementing new measures for doing business while ensuring our mission to the maintainers and warfighter continues seamlessly,” he said.
He said this is no easy task considering roughly 90% of the division workforce is not eligible to telework.
“I am truly blessed to be surrounded by these leaders and a workforce that refuses to allow the mission to falter, even the slightest,” he said.
Nelson said Sugimoto would be the first to tell you how important her colleagues have been during the transition since returning to work.
“The fact that my DLA Aviation leadership believes in me and the potential I show as a leader means a great deal to me,” Sugimoto said.