Top ten things I learned in the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Joe Lawley
  • 71st Operations Group First Sergeant
While I have been very pleased with my military life, I would like to pass along the some of the top things I have learned along the way that could benefit others.

1. The first is to "be prepared," and it should be everyone's motto. I've seen people deploy without uniforms because their civilian clothes took up too much space, only to find out the location they were going to did not allow civilian clothes. Always expect the unexpected.

2. Supervisors should always make sure their Airmen have all the equipment they need to get the mission done. The old saying of "take care of your troops and they will take care or you" is true. If your airmen tell you it would save time or money to spend a little money, do it.

3. Listening skill are crucial. As a young Airman I learned the benefits of listening skills from day one of basic training. When the training instructor said, "pick them up and put them down," I listened. Listen to your people and do not always assume you have all the information. There are always three sides to a story: the victim, the accused and the truth. 

4. Safety first and stupid is a stupid does. The will to be stupid is a very powerful force, but there are always alternatives. In my career I have seen many stupid things, and most of them started with the words, "watch this." Things like pulling a NCO on a snow shovel tied to the back of a truck at 30 mph, or doing doughnuts on a frozen flight line near aircraft is not a good judgment call. If it looks unsafe, sounds unsafe or it seams unsafe then it is unsafe.

5. Age and wisdom helps in most situations. Most old dogs have a lot of wisdom, so listen to them -- see number 2. When a senior NCO or senior officer speaks, they speak from years of military and life experiences. Wisdom doesn't automatically come with old age, nothing does -- except wrinkles. It's true that some wine improves with age, but only if the grapes were good in the first place.

6. Normally the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the loudest complaint get the most attention and only the piercing grumbler gets what he or she wants. Remember to inform your supervisors if you need anything to get the mission done. Use every opportunity to remind your supervisor of the issue requiring attention, but continue to ask until you get what you need without being a pain.

7. Never be afraid to give your opinion, or "don't be afraid to call the baby ugly." Be respectful and frank with a supervisor. Once the ranking person makes a decision, t hen salute smartly and press. Our commanders get paid the big bucks to make really hard decisions and they need to know we support them.

8. Be a volunteer. If you don't like your job, then volunteer to do other things. By volunteering you allow more people to see you can do a great job in other areas and could recommended you for other tasks.

9. Be patient. We have another saying, "hurry up and wait." The long story short is we are required to be available at all times, sometime for hours on end. Keep a pack of cards in your field jacket and be patient. We all have a job to do, but sometimes it takes longer than anticipated. Impatient people insist on getting things done now and don't like to waste time, but some things can't be rushed. Boredom can make it very difficult to be patient. If you have nothing to do while you're waiting, try to appreciate the fact that you have nothing to do. In a fast-paced world, opportunities to do nothing are rare and should be cherished.

10. Improve everything. We touch countless lives, homes, businesses and communities and your commitment should be to improve them all. If you don't like something, improve it. Get involved with every part of the base or community. We are always looking for new ideals and people motivated to work. Don't be the person who complains but never does anything to fix what's wrong.

We have the best folks in the world in our Air Force, and I can honestly tell you from personal experience during the last 23 plus years that today's Air Force is in the hands of the best and the brightest people in our nation. I will truly miss you all when I leave, but I know I am leaving my Air Force with the best people in the world. I could sit here all day and add to this list, but just remember to do your best with everything your do and live by Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in all We Do.