Wright-Patterson picnic integrates young blood into Air Force

Col. Tina Nguyen advises a junior officer and trainee at the third annual Wright-Patterson Young Professionals Picnic Aug. 8. Nguyen was one of about 40 senior leaders who spent time talking with young professionals to help them make connections and guide them in their careers.
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Col. Tina Nguyen advises a junior officer and trainee at the third annual Wright-Patterson Young Professionals Picnic Aug. 8. Nguyen was one of about 40 senior leaders who spent time talking with young professionals to help them make connections and guide them in their careers.

Base interns, trainees, junior officers and other young employees shed their ties, heels and desk work at Bass Lake Aug. 8 to make career connections with senior leaders and peers alike.

At the 2019 Wright-Patterson Young Professionals Picnic, corn hole, beach volleyball, a dunk tank, lunch and casual conversation helped lay foundations of professional friendship and creative collaboration for about 340 of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base’s newest Airmen.

“Events like this will give you the opportunity to talk with department chiefs and program leaders, but what you’re really building today are peer relationships for the long game,” Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry, commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, told the group.

Student trainees and new officers stand out in their units, adding fresh faces to a force where the mean age of civilian employees and officers is 47.7 and 35 years, respectively, according to the Air Force Personnel Center.

The average length of Air Force civilian service is more than 14 years, but most young employees hosted at the picnic boasted just months as Airmen and professionals.

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McMurry told attendees to strive for competence moving toward expertise in their fields. And according to McMurry, mastery starts with clear feedback and direction from leadership.

“The work that we do matters; it’s life and death stuff,” McMurry said. “Your job as new junior members of the team is to build trust.”

Decades of experience and leis around senior leaders’ necks distinguished them amid young personnel, offering new professionals a chance to seek out career advice and begin proving themselves.

As a final word, McMurry urged attendees to start building relationships now.

“Look around you. These people are your peers. There are times when you’ll need friends you can trust to help you work through change. They provide connections to resources, help, solutions and perspective to help you move forward. Life happens; people will go lots of different places, and it’s always good to have a network of people you can value,” McMurry said.