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Leap of Faith: Stepping Outside of Comfort Zone Leads to Opportunities

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Denise Kerr

The 2018 Enlisted Developmental Education Board will convene in May at the Air Reserve Personnel Center, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado. As part of the EDEB, Air Force Reserve Command will offer senior NCOs the opportunity to apply for the Air Force Enlisted Legislative Fellowship.

The fellowship offers senior NCOs instruction and hands-on experience on Capitol Hill through education and development activities consisting of an intensive orientation of Congress, a full-time assignment to the staff of a member of Congress in Washington D.C., and periodic seminars throughout the fellowship. In addition, it provides an opportunity to conduct research for potential legislative issues of an immediate or ongoing concern for the Air Force and the nation.

Those selected for the fellowship will develop an enhanced perspective of the congressional process on a wide range of issues and work under the auspices of the secretary of the Air Force legislative liaison throughout the Air Force legislative fellowship cycle.

For Reserve Citizen Airmen who are interested in applying for the fellowship, selection will require a 54-month commitment including six months of academic courses, one year on Capitol Hill and a 36-month post-fellowship active-duty service commitment (full-time active Guard and Reserve status), normally in the National Capital Region.

There will be preference given to senior master sergeants with 18 to 22 years of time-in-service. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree. Applications are due to AFRC by April. However, applicants are urged to check with their units for local deadlines.  

Senior Master Sgt. Megan Parrott is the first Air Force Reserve Enlisted Legislative Fellow. She was previously assigned as a member of the active Guard and Reserve to the Directorate for Manpower and Personnel on the joint staff, where she served as the senior enlisted advisor to the director and superintendent of the Reserve Management Branch. Following are some questions and answers regarding her involvement in the program.

Q: What is your background?

 A: I am from Long Branch, New Jersey, and the oldest of five siblings. My dad was a career civil servant who served in both the Army and Navy. He assured me the Air Force was the best option for me based on overall quality of life and opportunities for women. 

I was an active-duty aircraft maintainer at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, for six years, spent a couple of years as an air reserve technician, was a full-time General Schedule federal employee, a traditional Reservist, an individual mobilization augmentee and, finally, an AGR. I have two daughters and a husband who is a senior master sergeant and an AGR.

Q: What made you apply for the fellowship?

A: It was my husband’s idea. He is my biggest supporter, and he encouraged me to apply because he believed that my experiences provided me a unique perspective. While working on the joint staff, I was fascinated by the relationship between the services and Congress. I was excited that the command was offering this opportunity to the enlisted corps and believed my unique experiences would serve them well. This specific opportunity was new to the Air Force Reserve Command. I was thrilled to learn about the new program and excited about the exposure and opportunities if selected.

Q: How did you put together your application package?

A: It is a standard package. I focused on the opportunities that I had throughout my career that set me apart and gave me a broad perspective. I submitted my last five evaluations and (latest) fitness report. Once I was notified of being selected as one of the top five, I had to interview with the Reserve Policy Integration Office. 

Q: What do you expect from the program?

A: In a very basic sense, I want to learn how members of Congress approach challenges, how they prioritize requirements and how we as a service can best engage these leaders to share our story. By understanding how policy is devised, debated and enacted, coupled with the relationships developed across multiple enterprises, it will enable me to provide the best military advice to senior leaders.  

I was assigned to Rand Corp. as part of my developmental rotation for six months. I am currently assigned to Arkansas Sen. John Boozman’s personal staff for a year, while attending Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute’s legislative certificate program. I am also automatically accepted into the master’s program, but I will have to fund it.

Q: What advice would you give your peers who may be interested in applying for the fellowship?

A: I absolutely encourage folks to take a leap of faith. You should step outside your comfort zone and go for it. People need to look for opportunities within the command where they can grow and develop personally and professionally. We have an incredibly educated, experienced and agile enlisted corps with so much to offer the Air Force, Reserve Command and nation. It is always easy to stay where you are comfortable, but being uncomfortable can provide a multitude of opportunities.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: My ultimate goal is to serve as the AFRC command chief. Throughout my career, I have worked with and for amazing Airmen, and I hope to live up to the high standards they set for me. I want to continue their legacy of mentoring and deliberately developing Airmen to achieve professional and personal success. Whatever my path, I know I have been blessed.  Serving in the armed forces is a privilege not many accept. And while I do not know what the future holds, I will continue to work hard and dream big.

(Kerr is assigned to the Reserve Policy Integration Directorate at the Pentagon.)