Know the Simple Rules

  • Published
  • By Maj. Lee Curoe
  • 22nd Security Forces Squadron commander
Being one of the newest squadron commanders at McConnell AFB, I was thrilled to get this opportunity to share some perspectives on how I approach my job and my beliefs of leadership.

While nothing you are about to read is an original thought, the mosaic of these principles have been collected and incorporated from observations and experiences - gathered from commanders, mentors, senior enlisted professionals that we're able to serve with, watch, and emulate.

Rule #1: Make a difference every day, wherever you are, doing whatever you're doing. In light of all the force reductions in the Air Force over the last few years, there is not a single unimportant job; thus, every Airman is in a critical post. Accordingly everyone should approach their jobs wanting to make a difference. Prosper where you're planted.

Rule #2: Attitude is everything. We have all heard this adage and I have found it to be true. There are two keys to attitude: 1) YOU decide what kind of attitude you're going to have; and 2) attitudes are contagious. Who would you rather work with, someone with a positive, upbeat attitude, or someone who can find the negative side of everything? Positive attitudes make difficult situations bearable and difficult objectives attainable. Negative attitudes make a 12-hour shift seem like a full day. Never forget, you make this decision, nobody can tell you what kind of an attitude you should employ.

Rule #3: Always do your best...only you know if you're giving your best. Okay, if you were like me growing up, you heard this from your parents just about every day. This was one of my father's trademark sayings. If you give your best, there is seldom a time when you need to apologize for the results. That is all that we as an Air Force can ask of our Airmen to do your best. The second part of the rule is the litmus test to the first, only you know if you're giving your best. Sure, there are days when it gets challenging, boring, overwhelming, etc.; and those are the days when you need to be committed to giving your best. After all, it's what our country expects from its sentries. Check six, check to your right and left, and ensure all are committed to giving their best.

Rule #4: Leave things a little better than you found it. Yes, another elementary rule, but one that seldom gets used as a measure of progress. This is my self-challenge in taking command of the SFS. I inherited a great squadron, and I have to find a way to make it better; better at doing the mission, but more importantly, better at taking care of the defenders who make the mission happen. You are the subject matter expert for your job. There are few who can do your job as well as you can. So this is your challenge: leave it better than you found it!

Rule #5: Discipline. For many, this is why they joined military service. Once you're committed, you either cling to it as a norm or it drives you crazy until you separate. Discipline is what keeps us going. It is what allows the tired warrior to do PT after a long shift instead of going straight home. Discipline is a critical pillar of the warrior ethos, which allows the warrior to do the right thing. If you force yourself to do the right thing long enough, it will become a habit and you will become a more effective Airman.

Rule #6: Communication. I told my unit on Day 1..."every problem we have in this unit or in the Air Force can usually be traced back to communication: poor communication, mis-communication, ineffective communication." Proper communication techniques are critical to ensuring the word gets out, quickly and correctly, to the people that need to know. Communication is never the sole responsibility of any one person but has to be worked at by all involved. Take the time to ensure your message is understood. Otherwise, when issues arise, look at whether it was lack of communication, poor communication, or mis-communication.

Rule #7: If you know of a problem and do nothing to fix it, you've become part of the problem. Since I've been at McConnell, I have heard the comment that if you walk by a piece of trash and don't pick it up, you've just condoned it being there. I couldn't agree more. In a broader sense, if you know of a problem in your work center and you do nothing to fix it, you have become part of the problem, especially for the person that has to fix it. Be a force multiplier; instead of complaining about something or accepting something as broken, take the time to think of a way to fix it. Once you do that, utilize your chain of command and tell that about the problem and the solution.

Rule #8: Avoid the "good enough" syndrome. We've all heard the statement, "Good enough for government work", right? This is the motto of the overwhelmed and the incompetent...not of the world's premier air and space force. This is yet another measure that separates good Airmen from average Airmen. Never settle for good enough, in yourself or others. You'd be surprised how powerful peer networks truly are. If you see "good enough" being given, call it. We collectively set the standards for the Air Force. If we try to pass off "good enough" as the standard long enough, the standard is lowered. If we tolerate "good enough," that's what we start to accept and expect. Challenge it.

Rule #9: Never forget the Family. This is usually where I see a lot of confused faces in the audience. If you don't treat your family (be it spouse and children, or siblings and parents) with reverence, you'll be susceptible to taking them for granted and missing out on the true blessings of family. The Air Force is what we all chose to do for a calling or a career; however, it is not who we are. Family will outlive our Air Force service. You can love the Air Force all you want, but it will never love you back. When you have hung up your uniform for the last time, your family will still be there. Ensure you take time to enjoy the small moments with your family. Over the last few years, I've been in awe of how much military members sacrifice. Our families are equally committed to this lifestyle we chose and make as many, if not more, sacrifices along the way. You must respect that, and find the balance between family and mission.

Rule #10: Respect. A few years ago I heard the baseball Hall of Fame induction speech of Ryne Sandberg (sorry Cardinal fans). The basic theme of his twenty-five minute speech: respect. He had too much respect to disgrace his uniform, he had too much respect for the game to disgrace it, he had too much respect for his teammates to let them down by his performance or his preparation, and he had too much respect for the people that helped him get to where he finally got. This speech has always touched me because of its simple eloquence. And I think the translation from baseball to the Air Force is simply evident. You should wear your uniform with respect, because of all that it represents and for all of those that have come before you and made the ultimate sacrifice. When you think about how you carry yourself as an Airman, your perspectives about your service, preparation, and the way you interact with one another, think respect.