WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo -- Have you ever worked for a supervisor or peer who is always prepared for any situation or question? Someone who always provides an on-target answer to simple questions or complex issues?

Benjamin Franklin said "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." Every member of the Air Force, from an entry-level civilian and airman basic to a senior civilian executive and general officer must be prepared to take the next leadership position at a moment's notice. The opportunity to lead at the next level begins with preparation.

There are certain expectations of NCOs, CGOs and mid-level civilian managers when they reach the rank of staff or technical sergeant, first lieutenant or captain, GS-12 or YA-O2 civilian positions. These members are expected to demonstrate competencies such as writing a decoration, performing feedbacks, writing an OPR, EPR, civilian appraisal and mentoring subordinates. If you are not prepared, you are failing yourself, and will fail your subordinates.

It is critical during the initial years of every civilian's and Airmen's Air Force career be dedicated to preparing for future leadership opportunities and positions. I spent the first few years of my career going through the motions. I was not preparing for future leadership positions. However, I was fortunate. I had a mentor who would change all that. Col. Patricia Boggs did not give me a choice. During my initial feedback with Colonel Boggs, she asked if I knew how to write an OPR, an EPR, a civilian appraisal, a decoration or an award and staff package. I answered "no" to all of Colonel Boggs' questions. Colonel Boggs only responded with one answer, "You will!" Over a period of two years, Colonel Boggs prepared me for future opportunities by giving me a crash course on preparation. In addition to my duties as a Contracting Specialist, Colonel Boggs loaded me up with writing and reviewing OPRs, EPRs, civilian appraisals, Promotion Recommendation Forms, decorations, award packages, staff packages and a plethora of other Air Force correspondence.

The extensive lesson in military writing was painful, but necessary. Colonel Boggs did not provide me any quick and easy answers or solutions. She would always say, "Look it up." This forced me to perform research, network with peers, seek out experts and most importantly to put the time and effort into preparation.

The lesson from Colonel Boggs' mentoring was to learn what you don't know, but should know. As civilians and Airmen, we all are expected to lead. This is very important for first time supervisors. If you don't know how to write an EPR, an OPR, a Promotion Recommendation Form or a staff package, learn!

There should be no guessing! If you don't know how to write a civilian appraisal, go to your supervisor and seek the answer. If your supervisor is not able to answer your question, then go to your Section or Flight Chief. If your section or flight chief does not know the answer to your question, then elevate your question to the next appropriate level. If you are a supervisor and don't have the answer to a subordinate's question, you owe it to yourself and your subordinates to seek out the answer. This is preparation!

During the time I worked for Colonel Boggs, there was never a point when she was not prepared. She put in the time and effort to prepare for her duties. She also put in the time and effort to prepare me for future leadership positions. Colonel Boggs mentored me to prepare for the full spectrum of leadership responsibilities, which always included learning new things. She provided me the preparation foundation which has been crucial to my development and growth as an officer.

Today, I find myself asking those I work with if they know how to prepare a civilian appraisal, an EPR, an OPR, a decoration and staff packages. When I receive "no" as an answer, I get very concerned. It is most concerning at the mid-level civilian, NCO and CGO levels. However, the path to continuous preparation can begin anytime. You can recover, but it requires dedication and hard work.

We all should strive to become that supervisor or peer who always knows how to provide an on target answer to simple questions or complex issues. This requires constant preparation and learning. If you are not preparing today for future opportunities, someone else is, and that leader will be ready to take the position you are not prepared for.