Normally I have a Thursday Tirade – usually about some facet of leadership and management in the military.
This week, my tirade was DENIED by my Chief Enlisted Manager, our squadron’s Chief Master Sergeant whose job it is to fight for the needs and interests of the enlisted folk.
I’ve been waiting to get some surgery done on my right foot, and the operation has already been scheduled and postponed once due to the needs of the Air Force. For a month or so, the rescheduled surgery date has been awaiting approval. That approval did not come until 7 PM on the night before the surgery was scheduled. And it did not come except for the hard work and effort of my Chief to fight on my behalf.
I anticipated delaying surgery “one more time,” which I’ve learned usually means “several more ‘one more times.'” I even typed up a lovely rant about it. The vent post was sitting on my iPad, ready to publish as soon as I knew for sure that the answer was “no.” But then, after multiple trips back-and-forth to speak to squadron leadership, my Chief walked in and gave a double thumbs-up.
She read the rant and said, “I’m very glad you didn’t have to post this.”
In the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of good news about the Air Force, not just related to my self-centered needs. Though I have said in the past that I fear that there is a general decline in the quality of leadership, there are glimmers of hope. While I’ve seen managers who are unwilling or ignorant to the balance between accomplishing the mission and taking care of people, there are still compassionate senior leaders out there.
Last week, we found out who was selected for Senior Master Sergeant, and I saw a friend’s name on the list. Chris is one of the smartest people I know as far as our job is concerned, and he has always been quick to fight the trend toward silly or unsafe decisions in flying operations. He was one of my first supervisors in the Air Force, and he is definitely one of the few who demonstrated that they cared. He did not accept mediocrity, but he also mentored me to show me how to improve.
Another Senior Master Sergeant selectee is a former co-worker and supervisor from my time at Kadena. Steph is also one of the hardest working people with whom I’ve served. She knew how to push our office to succeed and yet ensured we could relax and have fun when mission requirements permitted it. She exemplified our squadron’s unofficial motto of “work hard, play hard,” and she led our office and our squadron to some amazing accomplishments as a result. On the personal level, she fought for me and my needs, but she also fought against my procrastination and laziness to force me to be a better NCO.
My neighbor across the street is also on the selection list. When my family moved across the world from Okinawa to Nebraska, we had no sponsor, no official welcome or assistance with how to find our way around a new base. We moved into our new house on base, and our next-door neighbor literally turned his back and pretended like he did not see us. But not Charlie. He saw me struggling a few days later with the ice and snow that had built up in our driveway, and he immediately came out to help with an ice-breaking tool. He’s the guy who pushes a snow blower around the neighborhood, clearing out driveways and sidewalks for about ten families in addition to his own. In the back of his house, he has a virtual farm of fresh produce growing through the warmer months, and several times this year, he has brought over extra fruit and vegetables to us and to other neighbors because “Hey, what am I going to do with all of this?” He genuinely seems to enjoy helping others.
And yesterday, while sitting with my foot in a splint, I hopped on Facebook to discover that one of the best officers I’ve had the pleasure of serving under just got selected for Colonel. In my experience, John was a no-nonsense leader who knew how to get things done. But more than that, he knew how to prioritize what needed to be done in order for us to succeed, and he tried hard to keep us from dealing with time-wasting projects. He showed great leadership and yet remained approachable.
Is everything great in my little corner of the Air Force? As we deal with sequestration and budget cuts, with aging airframes and low retention rates, with an ever-decreasing pool of experience, it’s definitely become more difficult to keep up with demands. When we get managers that seem to care about nothing more than their next performance report, it’s hard at times to remain motivated.
So it’s with great pleasure that I see some of the future leaders we’re raising up, and it gives me hope.
I don’t have a rant today, and yes, Chief, I’m very happy about that.