Finding my calling as a Development Advisor

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Varlensia Relaford

I found my calling as a Development Advisor assisting Airmen with career challenges. In fact, this position was the primary factor in my decision to remain in the Air Force past the 20-year mark. It was my dream come true.

The DA, formerly known as the Career Assistance Advisor, guides Airmen on career progression and planning, advises commanders on force management and professional enhancement and conducts various professional enhancement courses. 

I currently serve as the DA for Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, but my career path leading up to this point heavily influenced my desire to be a DA. Let’s start at the beginning of my Air Force journey.

I enlisted in the United States Air Force in May 2004, and served as a Crew Chief on the KC-10 Extender at my first duty station, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. After six years there, I submitted my application for Base of Preference.

BOP was a benefit that I learned about from one of my peers because my DA, at the time, was nowhere to be found. No matter how many times I called or how many emails I sent, there was never a response back.

Navigating the process alone was frustrating and confusing, and I wished that I could have had someone in my corner to coach me through the process. It was at this point that I realized the importance of the DA role, and how it impacted Airmen like me.

While stationed at JB Charleston, I had the opposite experience when I met and worked with an amazing DA. It was through that interaction that I recognized my true calling: I wanted to be a DA.

I was determined to give Airmen a better experience than I had at my first duty station. I wanted to help Airmen with their next career choice within the Air Force as a DA. With her help, I applied for a special duty as a career noncommissioned officer, a process which would have been much more difficult without her guidance and mentorship.

I spent three years in Argentina completing my special duty at the US Embassy before moving to Dover AFB, DE. Along the way, I met another amazing DA, Senior Master Sgt. Christina Ford, and my interest in the DA position was sparked again. I knew I wanted to continue to give back to the Air Force and help Airmen as a DA.

I attended Professional Development Courses, and was selected to fill the DA role at Dover AFB in January 2023. As a DA, I play several roles, but most importantly, I advise Airmen on career progression and planning. I am here to coach Airmen through their career goals and be there every step of the way like I wish someone had been there for me.

Although my role can be considered a retention tool, it’s not for me to tell Airmen to stay in the Air Force. I provide Airmen with the information and guidance on what is available to them so that they can make an informed decision.

As the DA, I offer Airmen guidance and firsthand, up-to-date information. There are still changes in retraining coming for our First Term Airmen, and I want to make sure they receive and understand all the benefits of those changes. For career Airmen, they often think their time has passed for retraining, but I am proof that it has not, and I will help them reach their goals to the best of my ability.

My door is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., in building 261, suite 205. I can also be reached by phone at 302-677-6363 or by email at