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Team Dover Airman receives STEP promotion, one of 14 in AMC

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Aaron J. Jenne
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Gen. Samuel Cox, 18th Air Force commander, presented then Staff Sgt. Chad Hardesty, 436th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, a promotion to technical sergeant through the Stripes for Exceptional Performers promotion program at an all call here March 3, 2017.

Hardesty was one of 14 Air Mobility Command members selected for STEP promotion in 2017.

“Earning this promotion is clearly a rare and impressive achievement,” said Col. Ethan Griffin, 436th Airlift Wing commander. “Tech. Sgt. Hardesty’s inspiration, dedication and professionalism while serving in our Airman Leadership School has been nothing short of outstanding … We’re honored to serve alongside the excellent Airmen of Team Dover, such as men like Tech. Sgt. Hardesty.”

The award recipient said he never imagined he’d receive such a reward.

“I don’t think anybody goes through their career expecting to get STEP promoted,” Hardesty said. “I was so surprised that when I walked onto that stage, I might have teared up a bit. I guess some people noticed, because they started calling me sergeant ‘Salt’esty. Even now, it’s kind of hard to believe. I’m just so grateful.”

According to Air Force Instruction 35-2502, “this program supplements existing Airman Promotion programs and is designed to accommodate unique circumstances that, in the commander’s judgement, clearly warrant promotion. It is intended to provide a means to promote Airmen for compelling, although perhaps not quantifiable, reasons.”

Senior Master Sgt. Jason Barnshaw, 436th FSS ALS commandant, said Hardesty truly set himself apart from his peers.

“It was clear, knowing the body of work Tech. Sgt. Hardesty put in the previous year, that were I to submit somebody [for a STEP promotion] it would be him,” Barnshaw said. “All these guys are rock stars, and they all do a great job of embodying the vision of this schoolhouse. I’d have been proud to put any one of them in for this award, but sergeant Hardesty really stood out. He embodies selfless service. Any time I see somebody who is more focused on taking care of others than themselves, it stands out and I want to do things to help them. He’s the type of leader the Air Force needs, which is why I think he was perfect for this award.”

Hardesty, who had no idea he was being submitted for the promotion, said he did ‘up his game’ after receiving a ‘Must Promote,’ the next to highest rating, on his 2015 enlisted performance report. He set out to earn the highest rating possible, a ‘Promote Now,’ which would improve his chances for promotion.

“That December, I sat back and planned out everything I had to do to get the rating I wanted,” Hardesty explained. “I wanted to give myself the best chance [to promote], so I challenged myself and said, at all costs you’re going to do what it takes to get a ‘Promote Now’ this year. That’s really where the journey started. I mapped out twelve months of base and community involvement, self-improvement, and professional development. At the end of the day, I knew I could look back and say I’d done everything I could to be the best Airman I could be.”

To Hardesty, this is the key when pursuing an Air Force award or the top ratings.

“You have to leave no doubt that you’re the best pick,” Hardesty said. “At the end of the day, you can look back and know that you left everything on the table – there was nothing more you could have done to make your package or EPR better. Even if you don’t win the award or get the rating you worked for, you can be proud of your hard work and accomplishments along the way.”

In Barnshaw’s opinion, it is seldom the award, but more often the journey that holds the greatest value.

“If Tech. Sgt. Hardesty had not been fortunate enough to win the STEP promotion, then that would not have taken away everything he did to better himself on the journey,” Barnshaw said. “That would not take away anything he did to impact the schoolhouse and all the students that came through here. None of that would have been taken away. He still would have become a better leader, better instructor and better teammate. We were lucky enough to get him that stripe, but the real reward was how he grew as an Airman.”

Real growth takes dedication even through struggles, Hardesty added.

“It’s a sacrifice, and you’ve really got to have a strong team in your corner,” Hardesty said. “This past year was really tough on my relationship with my wife. My balance was definitely 80-work and 20-personal life, but she stuck with me, and I think we’re stronger for it. That’s definitely not a sustainable balance. I’m pretty burned out from last year, but I’m also motivated to step into my new role as a technical sergeant.”

When asked about what advice he would give to somebody wanting to compete for a STEP promotion or any other military award, Hardesty said:

“There’s a code to everything. It may take you more than once to crack the code. I didn’t win any awards through 2016. I just kept working hard. You’ve got to realize there are a lot of people out there working hard too. Your time might not be now, but if you keep working, you’ll bust through. You just need to stay motivated and constantly learn and adapt.”

Barnshaw said Hardesty’s willingness to grow and adapt is one factor that made him the leader he is today.

“Hardesty is open and extremely receptive to feedback,” Barnshaw said. “He is down in my office every single day asking what we can do better, what he can do better. That says a lot about who he’s becoming as a leader. None of us have this naturally; it’s something we all have to work at. That’s one of the reasons I feel confident putting him into the role of a technical sergeant, because I’m confident that he’ll continue fighting for feedback and keep growing.”

Looking back at the journey, Hardesty praised the support of his family, teammates, mentors and leadership all the way up the chain, stating this award would not have been possible without all the guidance and care along the way.

“[Hardesty] may be the one to take the stripes, but we looked at this award as a huge team win,” Barnshaw said. “He counted on everyone on his team. He counted on his students to bring their best every day, and they did. He counted on his fellow instructors, and they helped keep him motivated when the going got rough. We like to think the ALS got STEP promoted, but really, it’s a Team Dover win! There were so many people involved in the schoolhouse and in Tech. Sgt. Hardesty’s career directly. This award wouldn’t have been possible without everyone’s support.”

Col. Griffin added one final statement in a wing-wide statement: “Please share your congratulations next time you see him and keep ‘Delivering Excellence!’”