Unbowed, unbent, unbroken

Chief Master Sgt. John Overturf, official photo, U.S. Air Force

Chief Master Sgt. John Overturf, official photo, U.S. Air Force

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – This is normally where someone talks about a leadership quality or shares a story from their past that shaped them into the leader they are today. Instead, I want to discuss the importance of taking care of yourself.

Full spectrum readiness has been a priority among our Air Force leaders and has translated into countless exercises, numerous training hours in mission-oriented protective posture gear, and realistic scenarios to ensure we are able to respond to any threat anywhere in the world. But what does this really mean if we personally are not at our best? While it is extremely important to be proficient in those skills, if we are not mentally strong and ready, we will never reach the level of readiness we need to be at.

As leaders and supervisors, one of our first priorities is taking care of our people. We spend a lot of our time and energy in ensuring people are properly trained, equipped and helping them through challenges or personal issues that they may be experiencing. Because of that focus, I believe at times, leaders unintentionally neglect themselves. We tend to shy away from acknowledging and talking about issues we are dealing with which can adversely affect our ability to lead.

Each and every one of us regardless of rank will face a challenge at some point in our lives and career. As much as we try not to let our personal lives affect our performance, they can negatively impact our performance if issues are not managed and addressed. Something as simple as talking with a friend, co-worker or a supervisor can make a huge difference.

Recently, I encountered an unexpected challenge that I would not have been able to get through if I did not have the support of my leadership, fellow chief master sergeants and friends. For leaders to be effective, we must take care of ourselves. If we are distracted or preoccupied by something that is happening in our personal lives, it can diminish our ability to take care and lead our Airmen. Sharing what you are experiencing with someone you trust may be enough to stay focused.    

One of the Air Force’s most important assets is its people, so I ask you this: Are you ready? If you aren’t sure or the answer is no, take the steps needed whether that would be talking to a friend, supervisor or utilizing one of the numerous programs offered through the base and community.  Life will happen to us, and it is how we handle those situations while balancing the demands of the military that will allow us to be ready for any challenge we may face in the Air Force.