LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — How many of us have heard our fellow Airmen say, “Want to get promoted? You’ve got to volunteer every weekend.”
Many think the only way to win a quarterly award is to volunteer, pursue education and spend time kissing up to leadership. I have heard so many times in my career how we’ve got to “fill the right squares” in order to get promoted.
There may be some truth to this.
For example, any senior NCO will tell you that in order to be eligible for a coveted senior rater endorsement on your enlisted performance report, you need your Community College of the Air Force degree, and you must have completed your SNCO Academy course by correspondence. Without that endorsement, the chance of promotion past master sergeant is out of reach.
When we senior enlisted Airmen guide our junior Airmen, they should be told the best way to truly separate themselves from their peers is to become the “go-to” in their work centers.
It seems we only tell Airmen seeking awards that we need three bullet statements for “base or community involvement” and “significant self-improvement”, because that’s usually the number of bullets you need for those categories in a quarterly award package. Let’s also mentor them that before they think about how many events they can volunteer for, they need to spend time learning how to be the very best at their jobs.
Study air force instruction and Training Orders intently. Ask a seasoned Airmen to take you under their wing. If you don’t know how to complete a specific task, find someone who does, and ask them to show you how to do it. Make yourself feel capable of tackling any job your superiors place before you.
When the opportunity does present itself for you to volunteer for something, or to take an off-duty education course during your duty day, ask yourself one question: will your absence from your work center cause your fellow Airmen to pick up any slack? If so, you might want to consider prioritizing your tasks so your co-workers won’t bear the brunt of the workload during your absence.
Leaders, when deciding whether or not to allow one of your subordinates to take time out of the duty day for a volunteer event, you should ask yourself if that Airman has demonstrated a dedication to his or her job first. If they don’t give you 100 percent of their effort when they are at work, why would you allow them time away from their primary duty location?
Finally, let me make it clear that I’m not saying volunteerism is unimportant; that’s not true at all. As professional Airmen, we have a duty to serve our local communities as well as the Air Force. One of the ways we become the best Airmen we can be is to better ourselves through off-duty education and through selfless service to our communities.
However, we can never lose sight of the fact that we are here to fulfill our responsibilities within our Air Force Specialty Code first. The Air Force needs Airmen to be the best crew chiefs, personnel technician, or cyberspace operations specialists they can be.