How to make rank – do the right thing for the right reason

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Griner
  • 71st Medical Group superintendent
Ever since I pinned on Chief, I have been asked a number of times -- "What does it take to make Chief?" After some consideration, my answer has always been -- "Do the right thing for the right reason."

That answer usually brings a look of puzzlement. Let me explain.

After you have been in the Air Force for any length of time you know that there are certain things that you have to do to get promoted. Initially, it is studying hard to get a good score on your Weighted Airman Promotion System test, performing well on duty and doing some community service and self-improvement to earn a good performance report.

Most people who desire to get ahead do the right things. But why do they do it? Is it simply to get ahead by filling a square, or do they do it because they have a desire or passion for what they do?

If you are doing the right things while thinking, "I have to do this to get promoted," then you are doing it for the wrong reason. Let me offer a few examples.

Community service is a prime example. There is usually a bullet or two on every Enlisted Performance Report that speaks of community service. It is also a major factor on nominations for quarterly boards.

Is your community service a passion to you? Is it fun? Do you have a desire to do what you are doing? When my son became involved in Cub Scouts, the pack he joined was new and struggling from a lack of adult leadership.

There was definitely a lot of opportunity for community involvement. I saw a need and had a desire to help the pack succeed. The community service soon turned into a passion. I was meeting the need of providing community service, but more importantly, I was meeting the needs of the boys in Pack 11.

Now let's talk Professional Military Education. Have you ever attended PME and on the first day of class someone stood up and said they were going to be the John Levitow Award winner, or the Academic Award winner? Is that the appropriate attitude for PME? Is that the purpose?

The answer is definitely no. If your reason for attending PME is solely to win an award then you should rethink your motives. Doing the right thing, for the right reason, means attending PME with the proper motives. The objective of PME is to develop military professionals, combat leaders, managers and communicators. Your motives should be to do your best at developing those skills. And, by the way, if you do it well you just might deserve one of the awards.

And finally, as enlisted members, we are expected to participate in professional organizations, not just by showing up at meetings but by serving in leadership positions. You don't always have to serve in top positions as long as your motives are right.

Most people don't like working with money and numbers, but I enjoy it. I guess it is because I was working in medical food service counting money and keeping track of inventories. I have put that to good use numerous times by serving as a treasurer for a variety of groups along the way -- a key position but not the most popular. I could create some "mean" spreadsheets and always had spot-on accounting. I served, not because I had to do it to fill a square, but because I liked what I was doing and filled the need of the organization.

To sum it all up, in my early years, I never really thought about making chief master sergeant. I was a master sergeant, with 20 years and planned to retire. Then I tested for senior master sergeant -- and made it. Then I made chief, quite a surprise to me as I had never really planned on it. It was never a goal in my mind. It just happened and I think it happened because I had done the right things for the right reasons.