Commentary by Maj. James Atchley
50th Contracting Squadron commander
Have you ever had the opportunity to purchase something you had wanted for a long time? Perhaps you finally bought your first set of wheels or that new house. Maybe you were able to achieve a goal and simply got the one thing you had wanted and worked so hard to accomplish. When I think of “pride of ownership,” I immediately think about the amount of work we put into taking care of those things that are ours and are important to us. We know how hard we worked to get them and want to take care of them. We are proud of what those things represent and how they are presented. What about your day-to-day job? How do you take care of your responsibilities and your career? Where does what you do every day fit into the big picture?
In 2001, while deployed to Southwest Asia, I had the opportunity to stop by the chow hall, I mean dining facility, for breakfast. I noticed a young Airman sitting alone and looking a little tired and worn. I stopped and asked if I could sit with him for breakfast and he had no objection. As we sat there eating, I struck up a conversation to see how this young man was doing with his deployment. He started out by explaining that he was frustrated that he was not in a job that really contributed to the mission. In fact, he felt that he was wasting time even being there. However, I felt he needed to talk and work out his frustration. So he continued to explain that all he did every day was drive around in a truck and he was getting tired of it. I tried to explain to him that we all contribute to the success of the mission in one way or another. He continued to explain to me that I didn’t understand how boring and tiresome his job was. At this point I began to wonder and I had to stop him and ask, “What type of truck do you drive?” He looked up from his breakfast and told me that all he did was drive up and down the parking ramp to refuel the aircraft coming in and out of the base.
Wow! I nearly fell over as I began to wonder how someone that fueled aircraft for a living at a location such as this could not see that they were directly contributing to the mission. I asked him, “Do you even know what the aircraft you are refueling are doing here?” I inquired if he had any idea what would happen if we did not have men and women that knew how to refuel aircraft, or if he understood that we could not even come close to meeting the mission if we could not refuel our aircraft. I told him that it took experts like him to keep the United States Air Force flying. I really got on my soapbox and let him have it with both barrels because I wanted to ensure that he understood how important his job was and how important he was to the Air Force. I wanted him to be proud of what he did for a living and have pride in owning that responsibility. I thanked him and praised him for the work he did every day. I do not know what ever happened to that young man, but I hope that a little of my thanks and praise sank in and that he began to understand and have pride in what he brought to the fight.
Since those days, I often think back to that young man and how important it is that we all understand what we do and how it fits into the “big picture.” Whether you are refueling aircraft, pouring concrete, helping process travel vouchers, managing contracts, repairing a light fixture, flying an aircraft, satellite or driving a bus, every job we do is important. We should all be proud of what we do and how we are helping the greatest Air Force on the planet meet the mission.
Leaders: we need to remember to take time and ensure our Airmen understand how what they do every day is important and encourage pride of ownership in every detail of their jobs. Our Airmen need to know what they do is making a difference in today’s Air Force and they are critical to accomplishing the mission.