Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Sharp
50th Mission Support Group superintendent
What does it mean to you to be a member of the world’s greatest Air Force? When I joined the military 21 years ago, I had no intention of serving one day past my four-year enlistment. My parents bought me a suitcase for my high school graduation and gave me two months to figure out what I was going to do with it. Growing up in a very small town in Iowa, I was looking for an adventure. I don’t recall if it was the motivational “Aim High” slogan or the six-week basic military training that drew me in, but once my parents signed the release form to allow me to join the military at 17, there was no turning back. Had someone told me then that I would still be here more than 20 years later, I would have told them they were nuts.
If I were to give one reason for my decision to stay in the Air Force, it would be the expectation for people to perform at a higher level. Many may not realize it, but core values did not exist until the mid-90s. When I joined the Air Force, there were no written guidelines of how to be a good Airman. Our instructions were easy, know your job, work hard and don’t be a dirt bag. Although these instructions integrate well with today’s Air Force core values, you won’t find them in any books or engraved on cool coins you can carry around in your pocket. When you really think about it, whether it’s the Air Force core values or these rudimentary tips to success, it all boils down to one thing, being the best in all that you do.
First of all, be the best at your job. Know the Air Force Instructions and become the “go-to guy or gal” when issues arise. Don’t get sidetracked with all of the extracurricular activities to the point that your primary duties fall to the wayside. The Air Force didn’t hire us to stock the snack bar or head up fundraisers. Don’t get me wrong, these things are also important, but not at the risk of getting the job done. Mission accomplishment is our number one priority and what wins wars. Bottom line: don’t drop what you’re doing at the job because your shop snack fund is running low on corndogs.
Secondly, be the best when it comes to your personal appearance. First impressions are lasting impressions. When you step out that front gate, you are not only representing yourself, you are representing America’s Air Force. Your appearance and behavior outside of this fence is what establishes the local community’s confidence in our ability to fight wars. Know the Air Force military dress, appearance and fitness standards and abide by them. Don’t just meet the standards, exceed them. If you aren’t a lean, mean Air Force machine, find out what you need to do to become one.
Lastly, be the best when it comes to attitude. A positive attitude is contagious and promotes a productive work environment. If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.
Remember, being the best does not necessarily mean separating yourself from the pack, it also means helping those around you, your team, to become better. Once you feel you are performing at your absolute best, reach back and help those you work with to achieve their full potential.
In closing, I want to provide one note of caution: Once you become the best, make a point to be modest and show it in your actions, not your words. Remember, it’s not the whistle that pulls the train. If you’ve got it going on, people will notice.