Building America’s Airmen with professionalism, pride, discipline, readiness

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- A message to supervisors in the 460th Space Wing:

After wrapping up my first month in command, I have had a chance to reflect on the many discussions Chief Master Sgt. Rod Lindsey, 460th Space Wing command chief, and I have had with our Airmen, their families and Team Buckley leadership. In almost every discussion, particularly with front-line supervisors, we are asked about expectations for our Airmen and have emphasized a common theme in our response: ‘Our leaders have a responsibility to ensure the professionalism and pride, discipline, and readiness of America’s Airmen!’

So, as I write my first commentary, I think it is appropriate to briefly expand on these discussions in order to start a dialogue with our front-line supervisors who are working so hard to develop and lead our Airmen.

Professionalism and Pride
The command chief and I often find ourselves talking about re-focusing on professionalism and pride in our Air Force and our Airmen. The term professionalism means different things to different people. When you sit and think about it, however, I think you can agree professionalism is fundamentally about the competence, standards and responsibility we have to live up to as Airmen. Specifically, in order for our Air Force to prevail against the threats to this nation, Airmen need to be the best at what we do, we need to maintain the highest standards of excellence, and we must take seriously our responsibility and commitment to defend the idea of America outlined in our Constitution; the stakes are too high for anything less.

This fidelity to the Constitution, and to each other, is unique to members of the armed forces and represents the core of what separates service in the armed forces from a typical civilian job. Moreover, as members of an elite group of warfighters, we need to take pride in the fact that we are part of the most capable Air Force and joint force team the world has ever seen and conduct ourselves accordingly. That means we stand up when called upon, we do not walk by problems no matter how small, and we remember that each and every day, each and every Airman is an ambassador of our nation and our Air Force.

Discipline
During our sessions with our Airmen leadership school graduates, Chief Lindsey and I find ourselves consistently discussing the importance of developing a strong sense of discipline in our Airmen. Now, the focus on discipline can get confused at times if we are not careful. Many times it seems our Airmen are thinking about the administration of military justice when they hear the word discipline. In this context, however, I am talking about training or preparation that corrects, molds or perfects action and behavior.

Accordingly, when we talk about building “disciplined Airmen,” we are talking about developing Airmen who do the right thing, the right way, every time because we have built in them the necessary habits that ensure decisive action under pressure. Far too often, supervisors believe Airmen will rise to the occasion in perilous times. In actuality, what happens is people under pressure fall back on their training. So, as a leader, if you have prepared your Airmen in a disciplined and deliberate fashion, they will be ready for whatever life, or service in the Air Force, throws their way.

Readiness
Since we are members of the armed forces and expected to respond at a moment’s notice in a crisis, Chief Lindsey and I also emphasize readiness as fundamental to Airmen development. When we talk about readiness, we focus on job performance as just one aspect of a much broader effort to ensure an Airman is prepared to execute her or his mission. When talking with young leaders, we talk about steps that must be taken to ensure an Airman’s mental, spiritual and physical readiness, as well.

The stakes are simply too high in our profession for our Airmen to be distracted or otherwise hampered in their ability to answer our nation’s call. Further, the command chief and I spend a fair amount of time talking about family readiness and the imperative that all Air Force leaders make it their business to know their Airmen and their families, and take action when needed to ensure we maintain a strong Air Force family that promotes both readiness and resilience in our Airmen.

In closing, every Tuesday, Chief Lindsey and I meet your Airmen during our weekly command and staff meeting. We hear stories about our Airmen’s backgrounds, their families, their mission and what inspires them to continue to serve. Time and again, they talk about the pride they have putting on the uniform and the recognition that they are standing on the shoulders of giants who came before them. They appreciate that they are a part of a team and accept the hard work and sacrifice that goes along with serving their country because they realize they signed up for something bigger than themselves.

Through this discussion, I hope we have stirred some thoughts for your next Airmen development session. Professionalism and pride, discipline, and readiness are fundamental to who we are as Airmen, and our Airmen know it. It is your job as a front-line supervisor to instill these competencies in them and teach them the habits necessary to succeed in the future.

Thanks for what you do in the defense of this nation, and thank you for making it your business to build the next generation of Airmen better than the last.