Air Force Competencies lay foundation for Airmen success

  • Published
  • By Christa D'Andrea
  • Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

Knowing is one thing, but “doing” is what makes things count. In today’s competency-based approach to Force Development, the Air Force will now be able to capture what an Airman “knows and can do” through the newly released Airman’s Foundational Competencies.

A competency is a combination of knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics that manifest in an observable and measurable pattern of behaviors.

The Airman’s Foundational Competencies are categorized into four major groups: Developing Self, Developing Others, Developing Ideas and Developing Organizations. Twenty-two competencies were approved last summer, two more were approved last month, and there are more competencies on the horizon.

The Air Education and Training Command Directorate of Operations and Communications Competencies Division has been methodically developing the competencies through a comprehensive study and research process over the past three years.

“We opened the aperture to listen to what Airmen say matters most to them to be successful in the service,” said Col. Mark Coggins, AETC Competencies Division chief. “We faithfully wrote down what we learned and now we know what makes up the ‘average’ successful Airman.”

These competencies, along with occupational competencies currently in development, are part of the service’s systematic competency-based approach to develop the force. It is an outcomes-based approach that ties a task together with specific behaviors to not only identify what success looks like but to create a pathway that deliberately develops Airmen to become top performers.

Coggins added that competency-based development allows Airmen to really understand themselves and their proficiency level, and gives supervisors greater insight into what their Airmen need to be more successful.

When conducting large-group studies to determine what competencies were important to Airmen, Coggins stated that “accountability” was number one and “teamwork” was number two.

“I think if we applied resources to those two competencies, we could get a pretty good return on our investment,” he added.

To help Airmen gain a better understanding of their competency proficiency level, an Air Force Competencies section was recently added to MyVector. On this page, Airmen will be able to take self-assessments and review resources to further their personal and professional development. 

These assessment tools can assist an Airman, or their supervisor, in determining if they have met expected behaviors associated with a specific competency. Additionally, they are designed to give Airmen a clear description of what’s expected of them as a member of the Profession of Arms.

“Competencies get to the heart of making the force ready and lay the foundation for Developing the Airmen We Need,” Coggins said. “We are passionate about teaching Airmen something about themselves, and pointing them to resources they can use for self-improvement.”

 With ever-changing operational environments, the Department of the Air Force is moving toward a more competitive approach to developing Airmen that links training, education, and experiences to develop an Airman’s competencies to out-think and out-perform adversaries.

“They [competencies] are the common currency of Force Development and are a powerful tool for Airmen to use as a pathway to success,” Coggins said.

For more information about Foundational and Occupational Competencies, stay tuned to