Leaders: Recognize Your Opportunities

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Owen Duke Sr.
  • 908th Airlift Wing
"The first question from a new Airman is the BEST time to "set the hook". The mere fact that they are approaching you indicates a basic level of trust...do not lose the opportunity! More often than not it is your response to this initial inquiry that will establish a positive, trusting relationship or a negative, suspicious relationship.

First scenario: Airman Smith goes to his supervisor, Staff Sgt. Thomas, looking for Fit To Fight program information. Thomas tells Smith to go see the first sergeant, because he runs the program.

Second scenario: Airman Jones goes to Staff Sgt. Davis looking for the same information. Davis recognizes the opportunity. He stresses the importance of first seeking direction/guidance from his Supervisor as well as the necessity of reading and knowing AFIs and how to utilize e-pubs as another tool for seeking help.

With Jones watching, Davis demonstrates how to search for information in E-Pubs. He then briefly discusses the various publications. Davis opens AFI 36-2905 and talks about how the test is conducted and scored. While describing scoring methods, Davis prints the age-appropriate data for Jones and discusses requirements to score an "excellent," mentioning that Excellence-in-Fitness coins are awarded for scores of 90 and above.

Davis goes a step further and has a Squadron PTL come and demonstrate the proper push-up and sit-up forms, then watches Jones properly perform them. The PTL explains how the run is often the biggest problem; he makes sure Jones has the appropriate clothing, and the importance of good running socks/shoes. Davis invites Jones to join members for exercise after work.

When Jones takes his first FTF test, Davis is there to encourage and support; he is there when Jones receives his coin.

Lessons learned:

First scenario: Airman Smith will not seek the guidance of his supervisor; so, where does he go for answers? Smith will question the integrity of other NCOs. He will not feel like the FTF program is important and will most likely score very low or possibly fail his first test. Smith will not feel important or part of the family. Eventually, someone will have to put negative paperwork on Smith. It's very difficult to cure this type of poison.

Second scenario: Airman Jones trusts Staff Sgt. Davis; he knows he can go to him and get help. Not only will Davis help, he will also teach Jones how to help himself and rely on the written word for guidance (you can't get into trouble if you follow the rules). Jones will trusts other NCOs and learn to do "what he is told, when he is told," and he will do so with a good attitude, without hesitation.

Jones is focused on the Excellence in Fitness coin ("just passing" is not in his dictionary). He understands Davis is setting him up for success. He will become a mentor to other young Airmen throughout his career.

That's Basic Leadership 101.

Discipline is a necessity. Ours is a dangerous business and failure IS NOT an option. Our Airmen come to us disciplined from Basic Training and Technical School; it is OUR responsibility to maintain that discipline. We have a moral, ethical, and legal obligation to our Airmen and their families to do absolutely everything possible to get them to and from harm's way with 10 fingers and 10 toes.

Remember how it felt to be that young airman, not knowing much, needing to ask lots of questions. Respond as you wished someone had when it was YOU in those "fresh-from-Lackland" shoes. Be the role model to show them not just to answer their questions, but to demonstrate the kind of mentorship/leadership you want them to display later on.