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Selfish to selfless: an Airman's 32-year journey
US Air Force | Aug. 5, 2021
ARLINGTON, Va. (AFNS) --
When retired Chief Master Sgt. Kendall Briscoe enlisted in 1989 at 18 years old, he had no idea his path would take him on a journey of self-evolution from a young, selfish Airman to a selfless leader with the longest enlistment at the time of his retirement in 2021.
Briscoe, who said his mother’s motto was “No one is going to outwork me,” began his career at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, with a gumption that would persist the rest of his 32 years in the service.
“I was working hard, but playing harder,” he explained. “I was selfish. I remember getting in trouble and being called to the commander's office, where I faced several senior noncommissioned officers.”
It was his hard work that paid off in that moment, as one of the senior NCOs there chose to speak on Briscoe's behalf — offering to take responsibility for Briscoe, who he described as one of his best-performing Airmen.
That moment became a turning point for his career, and Briscoe set on a path to engage with those around him with an attitude of servant-leadership.
Years later, with lessons learned and experiences to build upon, Briscoe describes “the spark” that ultimately kept him in the service when he felt exhausted.
“I worked to find ways to affect someone else's career,” he began. “A team win or family win kept me pushing.”
His motivation in part was from the Airmen he had an opportunity to work with, and for, he explained. When looking back on more than 30 years of leadership, Briscoe enthused that the connection he's made with Airmen is what makes him most proud.
“All I know is that listening to Airmen will change some things,” he said. “I think the Airmen today are better, faster and smarter than I was. I think the younger generation questions things, and that's healthy.”
He urges new Airmen and developing leaders to continue disrupting as necessary, and to remember to bring up those around them.
“You can get promoted if you know how,” he coached. “But once you get there, who will you connect with if you've stepped on shoulders and necks to get there?”
After three decades, Briscoe says his time taking care of the military side has concluded, and now it's time for his home life to benefit from his experience.