AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar — I could break out any Air Force Instruction, The Enlisted Force Structure, Air Force Doctrine Document 1-1, or even “The Little Blue Book” of the Air Force Core Values, all of which will tell you how to be the Airman you are supposed to be.
All NCO’s should know these to make themselves better Airmen and to ensure all Airmen whose paths they cross are moving in the right direction.
I have had people ask me before, “Have you filled all the boxes to become a master sergeant, senior master sergeant and chief master sergeant?” Many have asked me what boxes they need to check to make it to these ranks. The boxes I am referring to are such things as completing your Community College of the Air Force degree, course 14, fitness standards and participation in professional organizations. While these must be met as you prepare to make the next rank, this is not all that needs to be done.
As an Airman, I was working on what I needed to do to be successful. I was not worried about anyone but myself. Once I transitioned into an NCO, I gained Airmen under my watch. I was no longer responsible for just myself, but for others who were following down the same path. This was a learning experience for me, because I was transitioning from an all-about me mentality to an all-about me and the Airmen in my work center mentality.
I was only worried about my Airmen staying out of trouble, fulfilling their requirements and looking better than everyone else in the accolades department. All the while unbeknownst to me, I was slowly transitioning and evolving as an Airman myself through many mentors, leaders, peers and Airmen that crossed my path. That is when the epiphany hit; it is not just about you anymore.
As I began transforming into a SNCO, I began reflecting on the good and bad leaders along my career path and what they did that really made an impression on me. I literally created a journal of all these notes, writing down the characteristics that I wanted to have to make me a better Airman. But I also wrote down those characteristics I did not want to inherit. Airmen will quickly tell you of their not-so- good leaders and why they were not so good to them. It too was easy for me to bring these negative traits to light far more quickly than those of the good leaders.
My way of thinking began to change from negativity breeds negativity to positivity breeds positivity. I wanted to be that positive role model that Airmen were going to emulate as well as being their mentor; teaching them how to be great Airmen and leaders who others will follow.
It does not matter whether you are in a one-deep shop over a flight, over an entire squadron or higher; you should always take the time to learn what the agenda and expectations of your leader’s leader are. This will guide you in understanding, not only what it takes to ensure the success of your organization and your leader, but also the ability to explain to your Airmen their role they play in the bigger scheme of things.
Each Airman is vital in ensuring the Air Force mission does not fail. They are dependent upon those leading them to be capable of explaining the importance of their role in the Air Force. No matter what level of responsibility you are at, you affect every single Airman that you come into contact with – not just those you supervise.
Everyone has heard the phrase, “first impressions are lasting impressions.” This is so true as an NCO. Airmen will know if you are in it for yourself and if you are just “filling the blocks” towards promotion. Once again, it is not just about you anymore! Your simplest acts that you do will be noticed. Such things as picking up trash that is in your path, starting a care package program for those deployed, taking the time to ask about families, saying happy birthday or saying hello to everyone you walk by shows you care enough to put forth the effort to make everyone realize their importance.
Be the leader that does not just sit behind a desk, hides behind emails or only checks the blocks for the next rank. There is no way of checking a box when it comes to taking care of Airmen! Be active, be involved and be the individual that leads by example for all Airmen to follow, mentoring them down the right path as they will eventually replace you as the next generation of leaders of our Air Force!
When you take care of the Airmen, you are taking care of the Air Force. It is not just about you anymore.