Dorm life: it starts at the top

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The experience of living in the Airman dorms here can be different for each individual, but some things are shared universally: the occasional leaking faucet, air conditioning going out between the hot and cold seasons, and the intermittent unruly Airman.

When these issues arise, everyone who lives in the dorm has at least one group of people that will gladly help them rectify the situation: the Airman dorm leaders.

"I hope the Airmen feel that the ADLs were there for them at any given time," said Staff Sgt. Gregory Thompson, 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron ADL. "We're here to help them and support them with any issues they may have, whether it's something wrong with their room, an issue with their job or a personal problem."

Each of the three dorms at McConnell AFB have an assigned ADL, a two-to-three year special duty formerly titled "dorm manager." Their daily duties include managing the day-to-day operations of the dorms, supervising and assessing the order and discipline of dorm residents, and processing Airmen into and out of the dorms.

The ADLs themselves will insist that the biggest and most rewarding aspect of the job is mentoring the new Airmen.

"I like the mentoring, I like to see these people grow," said Staff Sgt. Marcus Drayton, 22nd CES ADL. "It's our chance to give back to the Airmen."

When Drayton was an Airmen in the dorms, his experiences with the dorm manager showed him that playing favorites and ignoring problems only lead to more issues. This was a driving factor in his decision to become an ADL, he said.

"Some of the new Airmen are just fearful of NCOs, so I try to break that barrier down," he said. "I want them to know that if they have a problem, my door is always open. If they're not comfortable with us, they're not going to open up about their problems."

The varied load of responsibilities makes prioritizing issues one of the most important skills an ADL can develop.

"The biggest challenge is time management," said Master Sgt. Bradley Gifford, 22nd CES unaccompanied housing superintendent and 2012 Air Force ADL of the Year. "As an ADL, you really have to know your priorities."

The ADLs' open-door policy helps teach the NCOs this skill.

"Personally, my first priority is the residents, so if someone comes to my office needing assistance or just needs to talk about an issue, I drop everything and give them my full attention," said Gifford. "This can add up to hours each day depending on the severity of the issue. In the meantime other stuff gets put on the back burner, and it is easy to fall behind. That's a daily challenge we can face."

This type of problem can be quite common for senior NCOs and first sergeants, but can be more challenging for a staff sergeant or technical sergeant, he said.

The nuances required of an ADL means that not just anybody can get the position. Gifford explained that they look for leadership, mentorship capability and experience as a supervisor in all applicants, as well as superior communication skills.

"It is important that we have a true leader who sets the example," he said, "someone that can be a role model for the Air Force's number one asset: our young Airmen."

Tech. Sgt. Andrew Hunn was deemed a qualified candidate after meeting all of the expectations and was recently assigned to be the ADL in Dorm 340.

"I was at the point in my career where I wanted to branch out from my career field and experience something different," said Hunn. "I care a lot about taking care of Airmen, and this job let's me get out and help them."

Hunn, who spent just under a year in the dorms as a young Airman, was in a similar situation as Drayton, having to work with a dorm manager who wasn't there when it was important.

"A lot of parents are trusting the Air Force to take care of their 18-year-old son or daughter," he said, "so I wanted to help them get acclimated to the military life."

The current team of ADLs has worked hard to not only meet their goals, but also to exceed the expectations of wing leadership.

"Back when I was an Airman living in the dorms, the dorm managers didn't care about us," said Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright, 22nd Air Refueling Wing command chief. "I never saw them, and they weren't there when I needed them. The new ADL program is outstanding, and the Airmen here are lucky to have such a good group of NCOs available to help them on a day-to-day basis."

This trust and support has gone a long way in continuing the goals set by the ADLs, said Gifford.

"Chief Wright is by far the most supportive command chief I have worked with," said Gifford. "He takes every dorm council, dorm event and the program as a whole very serious and I really appreciate that. He trusts in the ADLs and supports our efforts and needs."

Being an ADL is a very unique position, and the ADLs all agreed that it brought a lot of unique and fun memories.

Thompson, who is about to join the Air National Guard, reflected on the opportunity to end his active duty career as an ADL.

"It's been a great experience," he said. "I'm glad I was accepted into the program and I've learned a lot and got to see a lot of good Airmen grow up into NCOs. I'd do it all over again if I had the opportunity."