Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Winfree
50th Mission Support Group superintendent
As this will be my last article as an active duty member I thought I would share a few bits of advice on what I believe is needed for one to be successful in this great way of life we all have chosen. Although there are as many opinions as there are people on what it takes to be a success, I would submit the following four key ingredients, as critical to being a successful Airman: pride, humility, perspective, and determination. I have used these four throughout my career, both in good times and bad. They have served me well and helped me remain focused.
First, let’s talk about pride. I can remember vividly how I felt the first time I put on an Air Force uniform. I had just arrived at basic training, it was shortly after having all the hair (I actually had hair back then) cut off my head and receiving my clothing issue. Although I was nervous and still wondering what I’d gotten myself into, I couldn’t hold back the urge to look at myself in the mirror and smile. Man! I was a good looking Airman! Seriously though, I felt immensely proud. Proud to be a member of the Air Force, proud to be an American and proud to wear a uniform that symbolizes what people around the world have come to respect as the greatest Air Force in the history of mankind. Throughout my career I have continued to be proud of this uniform, and even more so I have always been proud of whatever duties I was assigned to complete. As a Security Forces member, whether I was standing guard at an installation entry control point, filling sandbags, picking up trash, completing my career development course or running a radar, you can bet I was proud to be doing it. Taking pride in my work, my appearance, my attitude and how I conducted myself as an Airman certainly had a positive impact on my career and contributed greatly to my accomplishments as a military professional. The best advice I can give you about this is to be proud of whatever you are doing and usually whatever you are doing will be excellent or at least completed with excellent results. Now let’s switch gears to another ingredient that has served me well, humility.
I learned at a very early age that no one likes the person who makes it known that they are better at everything than everybody else. We all have encountered this guy or gal. If you are one of these people, and you know if you are, take a hard look around to see who’s really listening next time you are ranting along about yourself and how great you are. In my experiences I have found success is much sweeter when you “walk softly and carry a big stick.” You don’t have to tell people you are great and excellent in all you do; your results will speak volumes for you and people will respect the fact that you don’t brag about what you’ve done all the time. There’s a big difference between pride and arrogance and trust me, the line between the two is thin. My advice is to use your successes to demonstrate proficiency, to encourage others to better themselves and to teach others how to succeed. I have always been grateful for the opportunity to serve and have used humility to keep me grounded to the fact that nothing I have done in my life has been without the assistance of others in some form or fashion. So, while being humble will help keep you from being stoned to death by co-workers, putting things into perspective can help you along the road to success as well.
During the first three weeks of my AF career I learned a very good lesson about perspective. At the time I was stationed at Hellenikon Air Base in Athens, Greece. Many people don’t know it, but back in 1989, Athens was the terrorist capital of the world. Military members and their families were prime targets for many ideological factions. I was working a midnight shift when a call came across my radio from the desk sergeant notifying everyone of an off-base attack. We immediately formed a detail and responded to an area right outside the main gate where many military families, myself included, resided. Upon arrival we found three vehicles completely engulfed in flames, all had been firebombed. I noticed immediately that one of the vehicles was mine. Needless to say I was upset by this and my attitude showed it, but I still completed my duties. We cordoned off the area, ensured there were no injuries to personnel and eventually turned the scene over to civilian authorities for investigation. My “ahh moment” on perspective came shortly thereafter while I was expressing my disgust, anger and frustration with the situation to my friends. My supervisor, Sergeant Mario Martinez, calmly approached me and stated simply, “Well, at least you weren’t in it Winfree.” So I shut up! Moral of the story is no matter how bad you think things are, there is always some good in it, you just have to look for it. This leads me to my last ingredient for success, determination.
Having a positive attitude and outlook on life requires determination more so during difficult times, challenges and unpleasant tasks. Whether preparing for a physical fitness test, promotion test or dealing with a difficult deployment, being determined can make all the difference in being successful. Taking a determined approach to be positive and excellent at what you are doing is necessary and in most cases, can be the only thing standing in your way toward mission accomplishment.
So here’s my parting shot…take pride in yourself, your work and the mission; be humble in your successes, how you conduct yourselves and how you receive praise; always keep things in perspective and be determined in whatever task you set out to accomplish.