TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Recently, an Airman stopped by my office to say hello. She mentioned she enjoyed scoping out people’s spaces and the interesting things they had. I asked her what she thought about my space and she replied, “Looks like you have had an impressive career.”
Her statement gave me pause. I looked around my office admiring the diplomas, awards, coins and momentos from the last 20 years and had to agree, yes it was impressive.
It was impressive because I never would have imagined I would still be serving. I had flash backs of my first four years in, and boy did I need mentoring. At the time, my supervisors thought I was a lost cause and didn’t really work on trying to encourage me to change my antics.
Unfortunately, the realization that I needed to change came when I woke up to the news that a peer of mine died in a car accident. He had been drinking and driving. We were out celebrating making staff sergeant. I was supposed to be in that car that night. It was the wakeup call I needed, but I wished it came in a different way.
I needed a fresh start. I left for my next assignment and decided to be better. I completed Airman Leadership School and the Air Force core values took on a new meaning. I focused on excellence and realized that as long as I kept a sustained focus on continuous improvement in both my personal and professional life, I could never fail because I would always be getting better. I also realized the importance of allowing Airmen to grow and not giving up on them. As a supervisor, it can be easy to dismiss someone who repeatedly messes up. But we owe each other more than that.
As a first sergeant people are my business and because of that, I get the opportunity to speak to so many Airmen. Some days the conversations are joyous like congratulating someone on their promotion, an addition to the family or killing it on a fitness test. Other days are harder, dealing with the loss of a loved one, encouraging someone after a failure or helping someone who feels like they can no longer keep going.
All of these leave an impact on me daily, but none more than when I am talking to an Airman who has deviated from standards and isn’t making good choices. When I talk to them, I see myself and realize that this is when they need someone to believe in them and their ability to change most. It doesn’t always work for everyone, but we each shine differently and I encourage you to never lose hope in yourself or your fellow Airmen. Keep faith in the core values and you will always shine bright.