Leadership Experiences of Enlisted Airmen During Force Management Phases: An Empirical Phenomenological Study

Leadership Experiences of Enlisted Airmen During Force Management Phases: An Empirical Phenomenological Study

Author: 
Mona Michele Johnson
Program of study: 
D.M.
Abstract: 
The purpose of the study was to explore the lived experiences of enlisted Airmen with leader actions when required to make the decision to separate from service or retrain into critical career fields. Data were collected using an empirical phenomenological research design in conjunction with the long interview method approach as described by Moustakas. Data analyses interviews were conducted using a manual spreadsheet matrix with results validated from the NVivo 11 software. The study sample included 10 enlisted Airmen who were targeted by force management programs in the Air Force. Participants described their feelings concerning their leaders’ actions when forced to make critical career decisions. Interviews were captured by digitally recording each interview using a 20-question interview guide aligned with the established research question. The five emergent themes from the data analysis were: (a) leadership support and guidance, (b) leadership influences and traits, (c) enlisted experiences, (d) decisions, and (e) career goals. Enlisted Airmen expressed concern about the lack of knowledge and lack of support senior leaders provided during force management cycles. In this study, enlisted Airmen understood the purpose and the intent of force management programs. Participants identified the need for senior leaders to work to better understand the career guidance needs of their enlisted Airmen and provide the desired level of support. The recommendations for action included the need for the Air Force to start working with the study-targeted installation and initiate a climate survey to allow enlisted Airmen to share their personal feelings and possible solutions anonymously.
Dedication: 
I dedicate this dissertation to my grandmother, Mrs. Ernestine Caldwell Ashford (1926-2014) who always believed and loved me no matter what my mistakes were in life. She was my best friend and always encouraged me to be better and be stronger in this life. She taught me success does not come easy and education is the key to being a successful woman. Granny, I love you and I miss you. To my husband Patrick, I love you with all my heart and you are my best friend taking over the torch from my grandmother guiding my path to success in this life. You have been my rock for 17 years. Through all of our hard times, you have always encouraged me to be better and strive for the top. You are my soul mate and I thank God every day for Him sending you to me when I was so young and uncertain about life and who, I was capable of being as a person. Thank you for loving my crazy and sticking with me for 17 years. To my children Kam’Ron, Alexia, Alexander, and Bryce, I love you all. My prayer is for you all to understand the value in education and understand learning never stops. I want you all to be inspired and know hard work pays off and you can accomplish anything you set your minds to accomplish. Strive to be inspired and strive to inspire. In addition to my family, I dedicate this dissertation to my best friend LaShanda Lewis. You have brought me out of some dark places and encouraged me to be better. I have watched you help the community and perform countless, selfless deeds without expecting anything in return. You are my role model to be a better person. I want to put this degree to good use to help and encourage those who do not know, they can be better people. I thank God for the courage and all of you for the roles you have played in my life.
Acknowledgements: 
I acknowledge the diligence and support of my committee. I cannot thank you all enough for the continued encouragement over the past 7 years. To my dissertation chair Dr. James Ziegler, I thank you for your patience and endless guidance through this journey. Through the countless setbacks, especially over the last few years, you enthusiastically and sincerely assured me we could do this together. Thank you for sticking by me and motivating me when I was ready to give up and felt I had nothing else to give to this program. I know I never would have finished this journey without you in my corner. To my dissertation committee member Dr. Julie Ballaro, my sincere appreciation for your help in the early stages making research methodology and design understandable. I thank you for always being diligent and thorough in your review of my work while encouraging me to keep moving forward. To my dissertation committee member Dr. Bruce Laviolette, thank you so much for completing my dissertation team at the end of this long journey. Although, our time working together was short, I truly appreciate your insight and willingness to help me complete this journey. To my participants, some of the best men and women I am afforded the opportunity to serve with in the United States Air Force. I thank you each for your time and willingness to participate in this study and share your experiences. I wish you all the best in the remainder of your military and civilian careers. Finally, I would like to thank all of my family, friends, and classmates who have encouraged me throughout this journey the last seven years. This has truly been a challenge, yet one of the most rewarding moments in my life. Now I hope you all join me for the celebration.