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Chapel teaches Team V to lead millennials

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team V Baby boomers, Generation X'ers and millennials alike came together at the Vandenberg Chapel Feb. 28, to discuss effective communication techniques across all generations.

Topics discussed varied widely from millennials' spirituality and beliefs to how they view electronics.

"Millenials, those born after 1980, make up 75 percent of the Air Force today," said Capt. Mattew Knight, 30th Space Wing chaplain and Leading Millenials Luncheon coordinator. "I think leaders want to know how to better relate to this generation, and our goal was to give them some insights and tools to help them."

One topic covered was what motivates the Millenial Generation and what they value.

"Some things that they're looking for in the work place are: a second family, a fun environment, transparency in their leaders, and a technology friendly atmosphere," the chaplain said. "Millennials want to make a positive difference in the world and grew up being told they were special, that they were leaders and could accomplish anything. It's difficult for them to be patient--they don't want to wait to do great things, they want to do something big now."

This luncheon also gave millennials the chance to understand what makes their elders tick.

"I have always noticed the difference in generations, but I never stood back and compared it in so much detail," said Staff Sgt. Preston Nealy, 30th Space Wing Judge Advocate non commissioned officer in-charge of civic law. "I really feel like this luncheon gave leadership at all levels a better perspective on our Air Force workforce now a days, and especially from a Legal aspect in dealing with the disciplinary issues that we face. It really broke down the thought processes that our generation deals with on a daily basis and to me, seeing millennial (i.e. my) point of view can really help me guide them and lead them better in a way they will be able to understand better."

Not only did this luncheon help millennials enhance peer-to-peer communication, it also aided some Vandenberg leaders' understanding of how to communicate with their younger Airmen.

"The biggest tenet of good communication is to 'Know your audience,'" said Col. Shahnaz Punjani, 30th Launch Group commander. "This class was a great reminder that my audience has a broader range of life experiences and expectations. I found it amazing the personal responsibilities some of them have at such an early life stage -- spouses, children. When I was in my early 20's, I couldn't even fathom taking that on."

Responsibilities and misconceptions were part of a panel discussion between the luncheon attendees and a panel of four millennial troops.

"We invited four Airmen to share their thoughts with the leaders in attendance, and I think that was a very important part of the event," said Knight. "One thing came of the luncheon was that one of the biggest misconception about millennials is that they're monolithic. They're not all the same, and they're not all lazy or self-centered. We have some great young adults in the Air Force who defy those stereotypes every day."
One technique discussed that would enhance communication is to create a safe place for open discussion.

"I think the biggest thing that leaders can do is being willing to listen to their millennial troops," Knight said. "Many of them will tell you what they think if you give them a safe and free place to do it."

This Leading Millennials Luncheon allowed Airmen from all generations at Vandenberg to come together and gain a better understanding of how to communicate.

"Several people have told me about the insights that they hadn't seen before, and that makes it worthwhile," said Knight. "If we equipped some leaders to better understand or relate to millennials, this [luncheon] was a success."