By Senior Master Sgt. Brian McFarland, 726th Air Control Squadron
/ Published January 23, 2015
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Over the course of my treasured career, I've come to describe the Air Force as an amazing, life-changing opportunity. Opportunity is defined as a favorable juncture of circumstances, or better yet, a good chance for advancement or progress. Many of our Airmen today entered into the Air force for that exact reason -- a very unique and rewarding opportunity.
Whether your ultimate goal is four, six, or twenty years, we can all agree this prestigious institution is a great stepping stone to get you to wherever your heart desires-- if you take full advantage of the opportunity.
Unfortunately, there are those who give away their opportunity and ultimately empower someone else to make a decision that could potentially have a negative impact on their advancement and progression.
Power is not rank-specific; it exists up and down the enlisted office ranks. I'm not referring to the three types of power taught in academia, I'm referring to the power at everyone's disposal.
The first, best, and most beneficial form of authority is positive power. Positive power is found in the easy, common sense, day -to-day things we all should do. Wearing our uniforms correctly, showing up to work on time, not breaking the law, holding each other accountable, passing your PT test, being proficient at your job are examples of positive power.
When you keep the positive power, you empower those appointed over you to do progressive things that will ultimately have a constructive impact on your opportunity in the Air Force. Constructive impacts include things like good ratings on your Enlisted Performance Rating, submission for an award, special duty prospects, and promotion consideration.
The second form of power is neutral power. Without question, neutral power is one of your worst enemies. The analogy I like to use to explain neutral power entails being in a car, in rush hour traffic, in a gear that, more often than not, serves no purpose -- neutral.
Where are you going in neutral? You're not going anywhere! As a matter of fact, you're in the way and could potentially get someone hurt or killed.
In Air Force terms, if you're in neutral, you're not doing anything to get or be better; you're not progressing, not learning, not leading from the front, and not taking care of our Airmen. Make room for someone that has their car in drive, and is actually making a purposeful effort to make it to a predetermined destination. This form of power is a pre-cursor to the last and most volatile form of power, negative power.
Negative Power can and will change your life for the worse, if you let it. Needless to say, this form of power entails doing the things we, as Airmen, in the world's premier Air Force, should not do.
Some examples of negative power include showing up late for work, not adhering to known and published standards, failing a PT test, and not knowing what the Air Force pays you to know -- your job!
Then you have more egregious offenses; DUI, physical and sexual assault, harassment, and abusing drugs to name a few. If an Airman decides to engage in these infractions, they give away all their positive power, and allow others to take away their opportunity to serve our nation and flag.
They enable supervisors to hold them accountable in the form of administrative actions, empower first sergeants to make a recommendation to a commander that has to decide whether that opportunity to serve is going to continue or come to a screeching halt. In some cases, they permit a military judge to take away their freedom and subsequently change the course of their lives.
As an Air Force first sergeant, I've seen all of the aforementioned forms of power in the actions of our Airmen. I'll continue to applaud the positive, push those stuck in neutral, and lose sleep over those that force me to make potentially life-altering recommendations.
At the end of every day, you control your Air Force destiny. The power is yours and so is the opportunity -- if you want it.