Commentary

July 10, 2014

Chief Master Sgt. Dawna M. Cnota bids farewell

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Letter to My Airmen

The time has come for me to hang up my uniform after 28 years of service.  Many emotions have competed for attention since I made this decision earlier this year.  There is pride, for the honorable service I’ve given; regret, on some days, that I can’t stay longer; and excitement for what the next chapters of my life hold.  Mostly though, as I reflect over my last assignment here at Davis-Monthan, I just feel so lucky that I got to serve with you, the most talented, competent and confident Airmen in the world’s greatest Air Force.

I’ve seen too many changes to mention since I enlisted in 1986, but the one thing that has remained constant is the hard work, dedication and loyalty displayed every day, all day, by YOU.  For that, I thank you, and I will count on you to continue that steadfastness as I turn over the reins to you, the next generation of leaders.

One thing I learned a while ago is that perhaps the best thing I can do for anyone coming behind me is try to pass along a few of the important lessons I’ve learned in my career and life.  I’m a Chief, I could talk all day, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to three.  These lessons, should you practice them faithfully, will not only enhance your experience, but the experience of the Airmen you will lead and the family who supports you at home.

First, make fitness a part of your life, not just something you do to pass a test.  As a senior in high school, I started running to get ready for basic training.  I worked my way up to five miles a day and some interesting things started happening to me.  I felt better, I looked better, and my performance at school improved.  My teachers noticed and gave me positive feedback. Once in the military, and with a now set routine, I continued to be physically active and challenged myself with new activities.  I tried just about every fitness fad that came along.  I had more energy and stamina; and when things got tough at work or at home, I had the strength to persevere.  I was resilient!  I managed stress better and even slept better.  This isn’t a phenomenon that only I experienced.  I observed those around me who were and weren’t exercising, and found that people who were fit were also better at their jobs and seemed happier.  It was completely unscientific research on my part, but I saw and felt that being fit matters and can permeate every facet of life.  If you don’t have a regular workout routine, get one.  If you have one, great!  Continue to challenge yourself.  You’re stronger than you think you are.

Second,  one of the things I love the most about the Air Force is what a diverse group of people we are.  It is our differences, our backgrounds, our ethnicities, and our experiences that make us and keep us the world’s greatest Air Force.  I encourage you to discover the diversity of all Airmen and appreciate what each person brings to the fight.  Working with people who are different than you will present some challenges, but that is when growth happens.  That’s when we mature and stop thinking everything has to be done our way.  You learn the most when you realize you really don’t know that much, and there is so much more out there than what you’ve experienced.  Be open to new ideas and methods, and listen to the stories of others.  You might be amazed at how other people came to be in that work center with you.  The one thing we cannot do is to use our differences as an excuse as to why we can’t do something.  For me, as a female in a male dominated work force, I never wanted special standards.  I knew I was different and was going to have to work harder to meet the standards, so I did.  Diversity enhances our Air Force, celebrate it!

Third and finally, in today’s ever-changing Air Force, you must continually strive to be both a great technician and a great Airman.  There is a function badge above your Air Force uniform tape that designates what job you do right now for the Air Force.  Be great at it.  Not good, GREAT.  Learn all you can: read the manuals, tech orders and operating instructions that tell you how to be great at your job and apply that knowledge daily.  Find a mentor and learn all they know about being a great technician.  Below that function badge is your Air Force uniform tape that, to me, represents the foundation of service.  I am an Airman.  I am an Airman first, technician second.  The job may change but the foundation is the same.  You are an Airman.  Be great at it.  Not good, GREAT.  Learn all you can: read the little brown book, the core values book, and AFI 1-1 and apply that knowledge daily.  Find a mentor.  Be observant and always be a student of leadership.

To sum it up, you’ll be given lots of advice over your career and lifetime.  Find what resonates with you and get busy with making it work.  I wish you all a satisfying and fulfilling Air Force experience.  Cnota out.




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier)

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