Commentary by Maj. Nicholas Jameson
21st Space Operations Squadron Det. 1 commander
Happy New Year! Hopefully everyone has returned rejuvenated from the holidays and eager to take on 2012’s new challenges and opportunities. Naturally, the resetting of a calendar year acts as a psychological odometer reset, enabling us to assess the New Year as a fresh start. Many of us identify resolutions as a means to better ourselves personally and professionally. Some of the resolutions may involve logging more running miles, reading more professional development books or building a better fortress for the impending zombie apocalypse.
Taking a proactive means to face challenges with goal setting has resulted in the incremental successes spanning my life and career. Upon reflection, I realize the brightest highlights of my years in the Air Force resulted from actively seeking out new opportunities where I embraced change beyond my comfort zone.
Change. Some cringe at the word. Pessimists view change with uncertainty, fear and potential failure. The grass is not greener on the other side and I like my grass here just fine, thank you. Optimists look at change as an opportunity to learn and grow. Most see both sides of change, weigh the pros and cons, and either embrace change or resist it.
Recently, Col. Michael Finn, 50th Network Operations Group commander, wrote an article about change affecting Schriever and how we as Air Force professionals must remain agile when initiatives such as the AFNET migration are presented to the masses. As a professional force, we naturally adapt and overcome challenges of external change. The question to ask is: When was the last time you sought significant professional change on your own?
At least once a month, a message from my career-field manager at the Air Force Personnel Center or wing staff finds its way to my e-mail inbox, presenting new opportunities related to career broadening. These opportunities may be a unique job within my profession, annual awards for my specialty or rank or a volunteer request for an installation level program such as the Combined Federal Campaign. Naturally, as leaders do, I pulse my troops to find out who’s interested. Many times, the response received is that “he or she isn’t competitive” for one reason or another. In many cases, some counterpoints are valid; however, I’ve concluded that some just aren’t willing to put in the required time to put together a nomination package and consider the true opportunity it potentially presents. At that point, I rattle off applicable mission accomplishments and qualifications and in the end encourage the Airmen to submit nomination inputs. Sometimes the result is positive and my Airman gets recognized for their accomplishments and other times their nomination does not win over the competition. Either way, I see it as an investment and responsibility to ensure we continue to keep our professionalized force sharp and recognized where and when possible. I am reminded of the saying: “You can’t always knock the ball out of the ballpark, but the pitch you’ll always miss is the one you never swing at.”
I’ve swung at many pitches during my career and life. Some opportunities I knew I had a snowball’s chance in earning. I fondly reflect on two opportunities which panned out: A tour with the USAF Honor Guard and a year of Education with Industry. Both assignments proved to be highly rewarding and different from anything I had done previously. The opportunities were of tremendous value and added a unique perspective and experience to my Air Force career as to what it means to be a leader. Whenever I tell war stories with my colleagues, I always get the same question: “How in the world did you get picked up for that job?” My reply is always the same: “I thought it’d be an interesting opportunity to do something different in the Air Force so I took the time to submit a nomination.”
Yes, change is inevitable (except from a vending machine) — some positive and some we simply endure. This 2012, I’d challenge that we should all put forth a resolution to not only react to the changes inherent to military life, but bravely assess and seek-out new opportunities for personal and professional change.