That Guy

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- Have you ever heard your boss tell stories of the past about someone known as "that guy" who made an impact in his career? As I come to the end of my 30-year Air Force career, I often reflect back on the years and ask myself ... what made my career successful?

Words like integrity, hard-work and perseverance come to mind but another thought frequently plays in my head. Instead of asking what made my career successful, the more important question is who made it successful. I ask myself, where I would be without "that guy?"

"That guy" I'm referring to is not just one person. In my case, its several people; some of them I didn't even know and some I can't remember their name, but I remember their actions. Their actions were often positive but not always (I sometimes thought to myself that didn't want to be like that guy).

What I remember most are the people who took it upon themselves to mentor me, offer advice and give me a swift kick in the rear early in my career. "That guy" might be a commander, chief, first sergeant, supervisor or any NCO or SNCO, male or female. A great example of "that guy" was my first supervisor. He was one of the toughest supervisors of my career. "That guy" stressed the importance of ensuring my uniform was worn properly and without fail. My supervisor wasn't well-liked, but he was respected as a knowledgeable and by-the-book NCO. I'm thankful for "that guy."

One of the greatest memories I have of "that guy" was during my first deployment. I had been in the Air Force for one and a half years when one night, my unit was recalled. As soon as we reported to duty, we were informed that our unit had been called upon to support a mission in Grenada. My squad was selected and we immediately started packing gear and weapons for the mission.

Within 72 hours after the recall, we boarded a C-130 aircraft wearing our helmets, flak vests and carrying M-16s. Hours later, as we were about to land, we were instructed to don our gear and prepare to depart the aircraft under hostile conditions.

Noticing that I was visibly nervous, a Staff Sergeant sat next to me as asked if I was scared. I was reluctant to answer him but I knew I couldn't hide the fear. I told him, yes, I was scared. He tapped me on my helmet, smiled and told me not to worry because everyone was scared, and I should just do exactly as he said and everything would be okay. That guy's timing was perfect for getting me mentally focused on accomplishing the mission.

I became a first sergeant earlier in my career primarily because of a previous first sergeant who was known as "that guy." As a young Airman 1st Class, I didn't completely understand what that guy did, but I knew if I ever had a problem, I wanted him on my side. He was personable and always helpful but if you didn't keep your room clean or didn't pay your bills, you had better watch out! I later learned why that guy's job was so important. As an Airman, he inspired me and I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps and be a first sergeant as well.

Now that I'm just a few months away from retirement, I hope I've been a good example of "that guy" to the people I've had the opportunity to serve. It's "that guy" who sees some good in everyone so he goes the extra step to make them feel important. It is "that guy" who corrects violations when others turn a blind eye. It's "that guy" who pulls an Airman to the side while at the club and reminds him or her about professionalism and standards on and off duty. It's "that guy" who makes the tough decision even if it's not the popular one because it's in the best interest of the unit.

We are confronted with countless opportunities, which we can use to influence others. Hopefully our influence will be for good but that depends on us. We make decisions from day to day or from situation to situation that determine what kind of influence we will be. Whether or not you remember his name, it's "that guy" who will make a lasting impression. Regardless if we like it or appreciate it at the time, "that guy" brings out the best in us. Let's all strive to be "that guy."