Treating people like people: one Guardian’s perspective on coaching

  • Published
  • By Emily Peacock

While catching up on emails, U.S. Space Force Tech Sgt. Nathaniel McCready heard a light knock on his office door.

A Guardian of the same age and rank entered and asked if he had time to chat. Serving as a flight chief for Space Delta 2 – Space Domain Awareness and Space Battle Management’s 18th Space Defense Squadron, McCready is no stranger to having non-commissioned officers come and go through his office.

The NCO closed his office door, sat in the chair across from McCready’s desk and began to break down. 

“He was feeling overwhelmed by work, family and typical life stressors,” said McCready. “He just needed someone he could trust to listen to him without fear of judgement.”

In addition to serving as flight chief, McCready is also a co-founder of the Space Force’s Guardian and Airmen Development Program, an initiative to provide systematic, targeted development for junior leaders through fostering a safe environment for both personal and professional growth.

Originally a satellite communication systems specialist for the U.S. Army, McCready credits his last assignment as a Soldier for his inspiration to develop a mentoring and coaching program within DEL 2.

“I was assigned to an Army recruiting company in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” said McCready. “In recruiting, there’s a lot of pressure to make the recruiting mission and we were constantly being evaluated.”

“My station commander at the time, Sgt. 1st Class Landon Dirgo, cared about our professional development and about what was going on outside of work. He created an environment where we felt safe, heard, and appreciated.”

It was Dirgo who ultimately encouraged McCready to pursue an interservice transfer to the Space Force. 

Upon arriving at Vandenberg Space Force Base, in Lompoc, California, McCready noticed that the military’s newest branch hadn’t yet developed a professional development program to support service members as they transitioned into the Space Force or that provided foundational training to keep up with the service’s changing policies.

“With the support of my leadership and peers, we were able to turn a vision into a concept of operations, and from there, a flexible program to meet the developmental needs of a unit’s members,” said McCready. Thus, GADP was born.

So, what is GADP? At its core, GADP is a mentoring initiative that pairs junior servicemembers with senior leaders to help navigate life’s challenges, whether at work or at home.

“I look at it as letting junior NCOs learn from my mistakes,” joked McCready. “But in reality, it’s designed to show our Guardians and Airmen that they have someone in their corner – to feel safe when asking tough or sometimes uncomfortable questions.”

From classes on updated grooming standards to personalized homebuying advice, McCready hopes service members walk away from GADP feeling both empowered and supported.

“He treats team members as individuals rather than positions or rank,” said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Tomasetti, a fellow 18 SDS member and a co-visionary behind GADP. “The program reflects McCready’s commitment to fostering growth and excellence while creating a culture of continuous improvement and camaraderie among its members.”

For McCready, his mentorship philosophy is simple: Treat people like people.  

“I believe that a person’s value should not be assigned based on one singular event,” said McCready. “If someone makes a mistake, you should help them learn from their mistake and let them get on with their day.”

When asked what coaching, one of U.S. Space Operations Command’s 10 traits valued in an NCO, means to him, McCready reflected on his own experiences both as a mentor and mentee.

“Coaching isn’t necessarily about solving other people’s problems,” said McCready. “But rather equipping them with the tools to solve problems on their own while empowering them to do the same for others.”

And while McCready recognizes that being a good coach might just mean being a shoulder to cry on, his door is always open for those who need someone to listen.

To learn more about SpOC’s Year of the NCO, visit: