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Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Langdon, left, with his boss, Brig. Gen. William Holland, who commands the Air Force's 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, as they look over a plaque given the general at a recent ceremony. Langdon, the wing's Command Chief Master Sergeant and Holland's top enlisted adviser, ends his Osan later this month and moves to Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Langdon, left, with his boss, Brig. Gen. William Holland, who commands the Air Force's 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, as they look over a plaque given the general at a recent ceremony. Langdon, the wing's Command Chief Master Sergeant and Holland's top enlisted adviser, ends his Osan later this month and moves to Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Courtesy of USAF)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — As top enlisted adviser to an Air Force general, Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Langdon knows a thing or two about leadership.

Langdon is the 51st Fighter Wing’s command chief master sergeant, responsible for the quality of life of the more than 3,500 airmen at Osan.

On all enlisted issues, Langdon is also principal adviser and assistant to the wing’s commander, Brig. Gen. William Holland.

Langdon’s 21-month stay here — his third Korea tour — wraps up at the end of this month, when he’ll report to Misawa Air Base, Japan, to become chief of its military personnel flight.

A key ingredient in good leadership, Langdon said Thursday, is knowing some detail about each subordinate.

“You have to work to try to understand where other people are operating from, their backgrounds, what is important to them, where do they want to go,” he said.

“As a supervisor, if I don’t know you, then I don’t know when your behaviors change. I don’t know when you’re not performing or behaving the way you normally would. If I don’t know you, I can’t make assessments about you. It’s up to that supervisor to know, and make those assessments.”

And, Langdon said, noncommissioned officers should watch for leadership potential within the ranks, and cultivate it early.

“If that person’s supervisor has been doing their job, they have begun to work on that airman,” he added. “We can’t wait until we put the stripe on to be acting as an NCO. Say I have four kids that work for me, they’ve all got line numbers for staff sergeant. I would sit down with them and say, ‘You are now a staff sergeant-select. ... Now you have to start acting like a staff sergeant.’

“The transition becomes easier. That’s the first step. I have to get that mind-set. ‘What’s expected of me now as a staff sergeant rather than as a senior airman?’ And that supervisor needs to be telling me.”

Langdon entered the Air Force in 1977, and after training as a security specialist, was assigned to the 325th Security Police Squadron at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

He’s held numerous positions within the Air Force security forces.

He’s a 1997 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy and holds a master’s degree in occupational education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va.

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