4 Keys to Being a Successful Airman

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jon-Paul Mickle
  • 51st Security Forces Squadron Commander
Looking back over two garrison command tours and one deployed command tour I believe there are four things that, if consistently applied, will lead to every Airman being successful. These four things are as follows: 

1) Mission First 
2) Leave it Better Than You found It 
3) Take Care of Each Other
4) Believe In Something.

The idea of mission first is that we took an oath to defend our nation and we get paid well to compensate us for our sacrifices; that money should be earned every day. Less than one percent of our nation swears to protect and serve their fellow countrymen. That makes you a precious resource. Airmen and their supervisors need to strive to make a significant impact on the mission of their Wing--not just their individual Squadrons--but their Wing, every day. The time and blood of our Airmen is too precious to waste not making the mission happen. Know your job, train someone to replace you and, to paraphrase General Patton, "it's not your job to die for your country, it is your job to make the other poor, dumb bastard die for his."

Leaving it better than you found it is easy. Pick up the trash. Wash a government owned vehicle. Empty that closet full of junk. Actually conduct an equipment inventory instead of pencil-whipping your change-over. Paint your dorm room. Change the checklist to save the Airmen time and the unit money. Document your Airmen's training. Motivate the weak and challenge the strong. Do a performance feedback. Write a personnel report or a decoration and do them on time. Repair the equipment or the facility that everyone else just ignores. Regardless of your rank there is something you can do every day to leave your Wing "better than you found it" this morning.

Every time we find an Airman in trouble, whether it is financial, on-the-job, off-duty, domestic, criminal or suicidal there are easily ten other Airmen who know and did nothing. Being an Airman means more than just being a Wingman when your friends drink alcohol. You also need to be there when their significant other dumps them. You need to coach them on finances. You need to listen to them rage and you need to hold them when they breakdown and cry. Taking care of each other is being the father, mother, brother or sister that can't be there when it matters the most. You are our family. You are not alone. Take the time to pause, reflect and appreciate the people around you, whether they active duty, civilian, contractor, local national or a dependent. Take care of each other.

I stopped counting letters of reprimand, Article 15s, Courts Martial and separations long ago; it's too depressing. For each one I have done I always ask what was the person's personal code of conduct that allowed them to think their criminal behavior was okay, and surprisingly I get the same answer time and again, "Sir, I believe in myself." Now Charles Manson believes in himself and Charles Manson is an effective leader. So much so that he convinced other people to kill a pregnant woman in his name. The problem is that Charles Manson does not have a code of conduct that fills his life with a positive purpose and a sense of justice. So believing in yourself is not enough. You have to have a code of conduct, so that when you are challenged with a choice between good and evil, you choose good. The Air Force core values are a good start, but they are not enough. You have to make it personal and you can't make it easy. Your code defines your character, your belief and is exhibited through your actions. Believe in something.

You want to be successful in the greatest Air Force in the world? Then do the mission, leave it better than you found it, take care of each other, and believe in something. See you on post.