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Perseverance, persistence, patience result in commission

  • Published
  • By Steven Przyzycki
  • Air Force Materiel Command

For one senior non-commissioned officer, hard-work, dedication and a driven focus on the future paid big when Air Force Materiel Command Commander, Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., called to tell him he was named the organization’s 2021 selectee for the Senior Leader Enlisted Commissioning Program.

“I was in a state of shock when General Bunch called me to deliver the news,” said Master Sgt. Michael Starkovich, NCOIC of Operations, 21st Security Forces Squadron, Peterson-Schriever Garrison, Colorado. “This was my fifth time trying to commission since 2017, which is when I actively started applying. It is something I knew I wanted to do since my fifth year in the Air Force.”

The SLECP allows senior Air Force Leaders to directly select exceptionally performing, highly talented enlisted Airmen for commissioning through Officer Training School. The program offers two options: SLECP-A, for enlisted members to pursue their degree while on active duty status, and SLECP-O, for Airmen who have already acquired their bachelor’s degree to directly commission. Starkovich was chosen for SLECP-O.

Starkovich has served in the Air Force for 13 years. After graduating from high school, he obtained his private pilot license from the Delta Connection Academy in Miami, Florida. He enlisted in the United States Air Force in December 2008.

“I joined the Air Force to serve and defend my country and be a part of something bigger than myself, a team with a global reach that could provide me with unending possibilities such as travel, education, and management experience,” said Starkovich.

Starkovich has held various assignments throughout his Air Force career and points out that he has learned something valuable from each one.

“In my first assignment, I served as an installation patrolman at Ramstein Air Base, Germany,” said Starkovich. “I learned how important positive and meaningful relationships are while being geographically separated from family and friends back home.”

Additionally, Starkovich has served as a base defense operations center controller, non-commissioned officer in charge of a security forces armory, combat arms instructor, NATO Force Protection Advisor and Instructor, flight chief, and in his current role as non-commissioned officer in charge of operations.

“While I was at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, I learned how to leverage the capabilities of those within my professional and personal networks, and the importance of returning the favor when they called upon me,” said Starkovich. “I gained something valuable at each assignment. While I was at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station in Colorado, I realized that I needed to be the leader that I wanted when I was junior enlisted. It’s not what you say, but how you say it, and how your message is received. This new generation really needs to understand the ‘why’ behind what they are being asked to do in order to have buy-in and motivation.”

Starkovich has also deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, as a response force member.

“While deployed, I witnessed some very harsh realities of life around the world, and it served to remind me that we in the United States are very blessed for the freedoms and privileges we are born into,” added Starkovich.

Starkovich holds a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security with a minor in Terrorism and Critical Infrastructure from University of Maryland Global Campus, and is currently pursuing a Master of Professional Studies in Applied Intelligence from Georgetown University.

“My plan is to do ten years as an intelligence officer in the Air Force, and eventually I would like to work for the National Security Agency or the Central Intelligence Agency,” said Starkovich, of his goals after completing OTS.

Starkovich attributes a large part of his drive to succeed from his family as well as an instinctive ability to work hard to achieve.

“My father taught me the importance of hard work and giving your best in everything you do, and my mother taught me how to be independent … whenever I would ask her questions, she would encourage me to find the answers on my own,” said Starkovich.

Many of Starkovich’s supervisors and mentors have noted the strength and tenacity he applies to achieve his goals.

“Master Sgt. Starkovich’s persistence, perseverance and patience along with his humility make him an outstanding leader,” said Chief Master Sgt. Sevin Balkuvvar, Command Chief, Peterson-Schriever Garrison. “I have found that some of the best officers I have encountered in my career were former enlisted Airmen, and I know that Sergeant Starkovich is going to be a great officer.”

As he gets ready to transition to his new Air Force role, Starkovich has taken time to think about his journey to SLECP and the resilience it took to overcome feelings of defeat when not selected on his first four attempts. The skill to persevere through disappointment is one that will continue to pay dividends into the future.

“Throughout this journey, I have learned so much about myself, especially how to handle defeat and failure through perseverance,” said Starkovich. “There were definitely positives that came from those rejections, and I’m sitting here for the first time since I received the call from General Bunch and letting it all sink in. I persevered, I was persistent, I was patient, and I conquered.”