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Senior Enlisted Advisor meets UTANG trainees

Senior enlisted advisor to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Tony Whitehead talks to trainees assigned to the 151st Student Flight, Utah Air National Guard on May 2, 2021. The trainees recently enlisted in the 151st Air Refueling Wing and are awaiting training dates to basic military training to begin their military career. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Colton Elliott)

Senior enlisted advisor to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Tony Whitehead talks to trainees assigned to the 151st Student Flight, Utah Air National Guard on May 2, 2021. The trainees recently enlisted in the 151st Air Refueling Wing and are awaiting training dates to basic military training to begin their military career. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Colton Elliott)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - The newest members of the Utah Air National Guard had the opportunity to meet the highest enlisted member of the National Guard on May 2, 2021, at Roland R. Wright Air National Guard Base.

Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony Whitehead, senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, took the opportunity to interact with the 151st Student Flight during May's drill. Whitehead shared several personal experiences throughout his career and explained why he continues to serve.

"I joined at the age of 18," said Whitehead. "Sometimes, there are challenges when you grow up, and things at home aren't quite the same as it is for your friends in school, and you look for ways to get out of it."

SEA Whitehead entered the Air Force in December 1982, where he served nine years as an active-duty security specialist. Afterwards, he transitioned to the Air National Guard and learned the National Guard has distinct differences compared to Active Duty.

"I learned the Guard does things a little differently because it isn't a full-time job or duty responsibility for the majority of its members," said Whitehead. "What you'll find is your commitment is full time, even though the time you spend there is not.”

In his current role as the senior enlisted advisor, his responsibilities include advising the chief of the National Guard Bureau on all enlisted matters affecting training and utilization, the force's health, and enlisted professional development of National Guard Airmen and Soldiers.

"I have been doing this for about 38 years,” said Whitehead. "It has been a great opportunity for me to learn and grow as an individual and then, of course, collectively be part of a team."

The trainees recently enlisted in the 151st Air Refueling Wing and are awaiting training dates to basic military training to begin their military career. While they wait, they participate in the Student Flight program.

"The best thing about bringing in new people is there are new ideas, better ways of getting things done. You will be able to help us grow and learn," said Whitehead. "You will be able to tell us when we are heading in the right direction, or if we need to tweak things left or right a little bit."

The goal of Student Flight is to help future members of the 151st ARW reach their maximum level of Air Force professionalism prior to entering BMT.

"You're going to help us to be the best and continue to be the best fighting force," said Whitehead. "What you bring to the table is what we need. When we move on and retire, you will move into leadership positions and continue with the mission.”

The senior enlisted advisor encouraged the trainees to get up and talk about why they joined, what they are going to do, why they are here, and what he can do to help them. Trainee Hyrum Hallman, a student flight member, was the first to stand up and explain why he decided to join the Air National Guard.

"I think a similar reason to a lot of people, the educational benefits and also the benefits of setting myself up for a future life in the Armed Forces and the civilian world," said Hallman.

SEA Whitehead encouraged Hallman not to give up on his intentions and capitalize on the free educational benefits.

"Don't give up on that goal," said Whitehead. "Take advantage of all the benefits because things start to move fast, and some great things are happening in the state of Utah that you will want to be a part of."

To conclude, SEA Whitehead shared his support for their decision to raise their right hand to serve and protect the United States.

"Thank you for making the decision to join the National Guard, serve your country, support the men and women that are around you, and continue to make our country great," said Whitehead. "We have some awesome people in uniform. I don't care what your background is or where you came from; it takes every one of you to make this a great organization."

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