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Keeping our Air Force the Best

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Too often many of us in the military community gauge our efforts only in terms of what we do in our particular specialty. While on the surface this may make sense, it only paints half of a picture and does not do justice to what the Air Force hired us to do. That is the subject of this article as I wish to explore the commonality we all have as Air Force enlisted members while still working in our particular Air Force Specialty Code.

Each of us, if asked by our friends and family, "What do you do in the Air Force?" would probably boast proudly, "I'm a weather forecaster, jet mechanic, firefighter" or any of the many different Air Force specialties we all proudly do. That is a simple answer to a simple question. Technically, it is correct and does provide them a picture of your skill. The problem with that reply is most members actually feel that is all they need to focus on, that particular specialty which they view as their sole focus and what they think the Air Force hired them for.

If you are one of these individuals, please take this opportunity to expand your horizons and introduce yourself to Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure. This little book not only defines the enlisted force structure, it specifies general and mandatory responsibilities of each enlisted rank. This document alone can provide the enlisted member/supervisor a guide and direction on what their responsibilities are outside of their particular AFSC.

I feel each of us would agree that if someone in your section was continually late on meeting suspenses, had to be constantly told what to do, and their work routinely had numerous errors, they no doubt would be identified as not doing their job. However, what about the person who meets suspenses, has few errors and indicates "I just want to be left alone and do my job?" - The job they define as their particular AFSC. Does this sound good?

A lot of supervisors may say "Yes, they do a great job and I wish I had a dozen just like them." At first glance this does not seem to present a problem, but when you look deeper you suddenly realize how this presents a very real and ever increasing issue for our Air Force as a whole. Airmen who limit their activities to "just the job" as previously mentioned, greatly limit their growth potential as future managers and leaders. Stepping out of the AFSC box and gaining new perspectives by supporting base/community/organizational activities are paramount in helping support our mission, the enlisted force, and growing as a leader. Some will say it's for the "brown noses" or the "lifers." They just want to be left alone and do what they think the Air Force hired them to do, that core mission focus known as the AFSC. I feel most of us have run into these people and as admirable as that mentality may seem to some, it unfortunately will only get that particular specialty accomplished and is the wrong answer if we wish to get the Air Force mission accomplished.

Each of us must realize that the Air Force is bigger than our particular AFSC corner of the world and each must take the initiative and responsibility to do his or her part if we wish the best Air Force in the world to remain the best. If that rationale does not get your attention, the fact that it is codified in an AFI should. We must realize we are all part of a global picture that must be taken into consideration in order to make this Air Force institution work. Deciding what we will do or not do because of the way we feel about it can be considered dereliction of duty and has nothing to do with being a professional Airman. All must realize we cannot become the leaders and managers of tomorrow by doing "just the job" and strictly living inside our AFSC. You must take on the role and responsibility of your rank to become the member the Air Force needs you to be. Your motives for supporting an activity are not near as important as the act of being there and doing it. Those who are there out of dedication and passion now may have started by just looking for a good EPR bullet.

So when, as an enlisted Airman, you are accused of being "ate up" because you happen to take these responsibilities seriously, be proud you are recognized for not only following Air Force Instructions, but for setting a great example for your fellow Airmen to follow.

Sometimes the best example we can set is to simply follow the right direction.