By Lt. Col. Peter G. Breed, 366th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander
/ Published July 21, 2009
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- When pondering a topic for this article, I thought about simple leadership and management topics that have helped me through the years. I quickly realized that my management perspective remains rooted in a very simple principle: "know your job, do your job." However, as I thought about it, I realized this concept continues evolving to embrace the bigger picture and the concepts that make Airmen a very special class.
As an engineer by trade, for many years my career field has quoted this simple 'know your job' mantra. Webster's Dictionary defines 'job' as "something that has to be done and a specific duty, role or function." In my early years in the Air Force, and with the support of great Airmen and noncommissioned officers, the 'know your job' concept revolved around being the master of my technical craft, duties and function. While I still believe it's important for every Airman, whether a mechanic, bomb loader, medic or pilot to truly master their craft, I've realized it's only part of what makes us the world's most respected Air Force. As I progressed and took on more responsibilities, I began to realize "know your job, do your job" also includes the responsibilities we have to our fellow Airmen all around us. In hindsight, it's a no-brainer, but for some of us it takes times to grasp.
As Public Affairs has limited me to just under a million words, I can only cite a few examples, but I'd like to share some observations that remind me how our Air Force "jobs" are filled with opportunities to support our fellow Airmen in ways that bring both inner peace by being good to your fellow man and helping the Air Force stay mission focused and on track.
My first example begins back in the days before I joined the Air Force. I was working in the auto industry and had the opportunity to see how the discipline system worked in a blue collar industry. In more than one instance, I saw workers who weren't quite making it. They quickly found themselves unemployed with no chance of rehabilitation. Now, years later, I firmly believe part of my job as an Airman is to insist on accountability, the importance of discipline and the need to remove those no longer fit for duty. However, through my career, I have also seen a system that does its best to rehabilitate those who simply made a mistake. I have seen careers saved and Airmen recover from discipline issues to go on to great careers because not just chiefs and first sergeants, but peers, understand that part of their "job" is to give a little extra and help the troubled Airman find a constructive path to being a productive Air Force member.The auto industry would not have given the extra chance and lost many good workers as a result.
Jumping forward to these past few months, the Gunfighters have been reminded of the frailty of life. We have lost some of our fellow Airmen. These events have been tragic and many of you may ask, what do these have to do with me "knowing my job?" Coworkers and family get it, and many of us outside the directly impacted workplaces are getting it. We have a duty to help the families, the work centers and the Airmen affected. The overwhelming support and teamwork Gunfighters have demonstrated time and again have crushed my early definition of a "job" and magnified my evolving concept of obligation to fellow Airmen. Whether it's supporting the families, picking up some extra duties at work, or simply praying with and for the families, I saw my fellow Gunfighters on all levels demonstrating what we do as Airmen.
Finally and looking slightly ahead, many of you know the 366th Medical Group is preparing for a major inspection. We've already had a few of the typical pre-inspection anxieties, and I expect we'll have more before it's done. Leadership has assembled a core team to verify we are all doing our "job" and to help guide our preparations to ensure all is in order. As we look into all our requirements, it's apparent that some sections are better prepared than others. What has already impressed me is the number of Airmen who understand their "job" and duty as good wingmen. These professionals have simply volunteered to help other sections get caught up and inspection ready. These are young officers, Airmen and even a spouse who have simply recognized that part of their job is to support the team, no matter what the task is. Regardless of the inspection outcome, these Airmen have once again reminded me that a "job" is not bounded by technical skill but must incorporate our duty to help fellow Airmen.
While my examples above may seem a bit eclectic, I hope they remind us that the "job" of an Airman is a combination of technical skill, wingman principles, compassion to your fellow Airman, teamwork and doing the right thing as a human being. "Know your job, do your job" still holds great value to me, but I have learned that it is far more than a technical motto. As each of you continue through your career, ask yourself periodically, what is my" job?" While I would expect your answer to include aspects of your chosen skill, I hope that your answer also includes the much broader aspects of being a good Airman and Wingman. Our every day challenge is not only to be the technical master of your craft, but just as important, take care of your family, friends, colleagues, Wingmen and the Air Force family around you. As I conclude, I realize that Webster has been right all along. Airmen take action when they see that "something has to be done," and on a daily basis, they demonstrate the sense of "duty" to fellow Airmen. It's these definitions that make my "job" in the Air Force a very cool gig!