Professional obligations as leaders

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Clifford Bayne
  • 22nd Logistic Readiness Squadron
On Aug. 24, McConnell’s newest staff sergeant selects hosted a release party. What should have been an incredibly joyous event for the wing was overshadowed by the lack of participation by some of our selects. As the names were called of individuals not in attendance, it became evident that a portion of the selects chose not to attend. Following the event, I was informed that some did not attend because they did not want to pay the fee.

Not long after this, I met with the staff sergeant selects in my unit and raised the topic of professional obligation, specifically asking why we are asked to pay for and attend our own promotion party. All admitted they didn’t know why, beyond that some had been told by their supervisor that it was part of tradition: “I did it, and you should too.”

It struck me that as leaders we haven’t been successful in explaining some of our traditions and why they are important. As the answer to why we pay for our own promotion party is not spelled out in any Air Force Instruction, I’d like to explain why I believe this tradition exists.

In the civilian world, when one is selected for promotion, their co-workers usually celebrate by taking the promotee out and buying him or her drinks. In contrast, an Airman who is selected for promotion is expected to purchase drinks for their fellow Airmen. In the Air Force, we recognize that our promotion are due largely to the support of those around us. Whether it is the supervisor who provides mentorship, the wingman who supports us through challenging times, the personnelist who processes our reports or the defender who keeps us safe, we have a lot of people who enable us to successfully do our job. The promotee’s monetary contribution toward buying drinks for the base’s Airmen is a sign of recognition to all those who helped him or her get there. Simply put, it is a “thank you.”

I also believe the request for money to put on our own promotion party is done for a second reason: to emphasize that as you move up in rank the Air Force expects more of you. It will expect more of your time, it will expect more of your energy, and, yes, it will expect more of your money. There is no special pot of money the Air Force sets aside for farewell gifts for departing members, welcome baskets for incoming members or flowers for grieving members. Providing these to our fellow Airmen is dependent upon the generosity of other Airmen. Monetary contributions, in these instances, are expected from our leaders. And as you progress in rank, just as the fee for your promotion party will increase, so will the expectation for increased monetary contributions.

I would consider the contribution toward and participation in your promotion selection party as the first test of you at your new rank. Will you pass it?