Are you unique?

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Jon Shane
  • 22nd Medical Group superintendent
I have always enjoyed talking to members of the Air Force. That sense of enjoyment was enhanced when I was selected for master sergeant because I had a direct route to conversing with attendees of the Air Force's Non Commissioned Officer Preparatory Development course or the Senior NCO Induction Seminar.

After successfully achieving rank within the SNCO tier, I frequently encounted a repetitive question: "How do I make chief master sergeant?" I have always found this question odd, mainly because I never focused solely on becoming a chief. I always felt that if my actions were natural and sincere, the reactions I encountered would be rewards in themselves.

To become a chief master sergeant, you may be surprised to learn that it all comes down to one acroynm...UNIQUE.

The U asks the simple question...Are you ready? If your NCO in charge, officer in charge or colleague were to deploy tomorrow, change stations or become hospitalized for a long period of time...are you ready to jump into their shoes and run the show? Are you able to sufficiently answer the commander's questions?

The N stands for new ideas to old problems. This process has changed throughout my career with tiger teams, process action teams, action workout teams, and most recently AFSO21. Regardless of its name, new ideas won't always be measured in manning numbers or shorter hours, but in the creative ideas stemmed from the newest Airman to the most seasoned colonel. Our Air Force should strive to work smarter, not harder, to successfully accomplish the mission. As leaders we must invest in innovative and creative thought processes today for the advancements of tomorrow. The days of an Airman coming in and being told to "go color" until they make Staff Sergeant should be obsolete and the new approach should be "look around and tell me what you see wrong or what could we do better." I have been amazed at the number of newly implemented ideas our new Airmen have generated.

The I is for innovative. Think outside the box and make the impossible, possible. Without knowing the exact development schematic, an idea can likely be born with someone tinkering around in the workshop and boom, it happens. That can happen in a clinic, on the flight line, or in the finance department. It just takes a little innovation.

The Q is for question the answer. It does not mean to disobey a direct order or question your superiors, but rather question the process. Terms like "The McConnell Way" or "That's the way it has always been" may sound catchy, but do they really give the best value for the buck? Is the 1993 way still the best way in 2009? Maybe yes...but maybe no. If no, then perhaps the answer is one you have been saving and the right time never arrived. That time is now and I'm confident your supervisor will want to hear your ideas.

The second U is to understand. We all know that change is the only constant, but in reality, change is harder than most people think. Change can be difficult for some to accept and sustain. From a leader's perspective, change requires time, effort, and buy-in to really show that a new way is better. If you feel strongly about an issue, fight for it with material substance to back up and prove your point.

The final letter is E, for empowerment. I believe that with an empowered staff, there is no limit. Ideas that were once only dreams are now reality. Very few things can beat the smile on an NCO or Airman's face when they are able to showcase their idea to the wing commander or win an award because they devised a new way to get the job done. These little wins become infectious and before long, the entire group feels they too can make a difference. You must allow your members to lead from the front and make the Air Force a better place for tomorrow.

The Air Force wants leaders, and the best leaders are the ones who don't forget where they came from. Leaders should relook at old ideas that are deep in tradition and see if new ways are possible. As leaders, we must realize that talent is all around us and we have to tap into that talent before it is lost. We must have the ability to adapt to an ever changing world with a new way of doing business.

I believe the tools listed above will not only prepare you for a successful career but help send you on your way to the highest of enlisted ranks and will encourage every Airman to make themselves UNIQUE.