LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
April Fool’s Day came with a pleasant surprise this year for Tech. Sgt. Richard Bates, 47th Security Forces Squadron flight chief.
Bates was selected by Brig. Gen. Patrick Doherty, 19th Air Force commander, for promotion to Technical Sergeant under the Stripes for Exceptional Performers (STEP) program -- and it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.
According to an article published by Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs, the STEP promotion program offers commanders a limited opportunity to immediately promote enlisted members to staff sergeant, technical sergeant or master sergeant. STEP promotions recognize Airmen who exhibit exceptional potential.
“You never really hear about STEP promotions, so it wasn’t even on my mind,” said Bates, laughing. “I’m still in shock that it happened.”
As a Senior Airman Below-the-Zone recipient, and first-time Staff Sergeant select, Bates has been setting the bar high since his early days as an Airman; but he said he had no idea this promotion was on the way.
His leadership, on the other hand, was not as shocked.
Bates was named Air Education and Training Command’s 2015 Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year, after securing a new honor guard facility, increasing training capabilities and efficiency by 25 percent. As Laughlin Honor Guard’s NCO in charge, he led 63 military funeral honors, devoting more than 200 hours, securing AETC’s 100-percent support rate, all while 60 percent under-manned. Bates is also a superb instructor; four of his students noted that he administered the “best ever weapons training,” while he was a combat arms instructor – and AETC inspector general validated that he is a comprehensive unit inspection professional performer.
“Tech. Sgt. Bates easily fit into the caliber of Airman the STEP program was designed for,” said Chief Master Sgt. George Richey, 47th Flying Training Wing command chief. “When I began to build the nomination package for his STEP promotion I was in awe at his continued excellence, literally year after year. At that point, it became blatantly obvious; he needed to be promoted immediately to technical sergeant.”
As the base honor guard NCO in charge, Bates led 20 Airmen, and currently leads 15 Airmen as a security forces flight chief.
“Making a positive impact to as many people as possible is what drives me,” Bates said. “It’s the fact that once I became an NCO I realized the only way to be truly successful is to take care of the people you work with and make sure they are successful. In doing so you will be successful.”