Starting a selfless service habit

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Benson
  • 325th Weapons Squadron
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."-Aristole

Ever walk by a piece of trash on the floor? Did you pick it up? What if it was closer to someone else's desk? Would you pick it up then? All too often we walk by trash or other problems, thinking it was someone else's responsibility. But it's yours.

As servicemembers our lives are dedicated to sacrificing for others. But far too often this service stops when the deployment is done, the mission is complete, or you take off your uniform. I had the extreme privilege to watch a general combatant commander walk into Koki Village, Papua New Guinea. One of the poorest places in Papua New Guinea, featured homes made of sheets of steel held together with old posters. Often 12 people would live in a 12x12 shack. Why would a 4-star visit here? Koki Village isn't in a war zone, why is it so important? After watching for several minutes and thinking, I began to figure it out. Why do I serve? Is it to kill the enemy? If needed. But service is much more than that. It is about a higher calling than just ourselves. It is about serving others and making the world a better place for all.

As a servicemember you have the duty to set the example of service and sacrifice. I know most of you can't visit Koki Village, but there are opportunities all around. When was the last time you visited the child development center to read, or built a home with Habitat for Humanity of Sedalia, or visited the Veterans Home in Warrensburg, or spoke to a local organization in Knob Noster? Such community service provides an excellent opportunity to do something as a unit, build camaraderie, and learn something about your coworker, supervisor or subordinate in a social environment. It also allows an informal setting for discussions and mentoring, and provides an important opportunity to interact with the local community.

Service to others also applies on duty. As an Airman, you have a responsibility to help not only yourself to succeed, but more importantly your subordinates, coworkers, supervisors and unit. This could include something as trivial as picking up a piece of trash or, as a leader, something as important as mentoring. As a leader you need to take the time to get to know your people; who they are off duty, what motivates them, their goals. You need to take this information and, together, develop and execute a plan to help them succeed personally and professionally. This is not always an easy task, but in doing so it lifts your personnel and unit to a higher level.

Selfless service provides a personal satisfaction that fosters and reinforces the principle to all involved. It is contagious and creates an attitude and atmosphere of sacrifice not only on, but off duty that makes us all better Airmen, spouses, parents and Americans. So the next time you walk by a piece of trash on the floor, don't just walk by. It doesn't matter who it belongs to. All that matters is that it goes in the waste basket. In doing so, you start to create a habit of selfless service that could significantly improve yourself as a person and a leader.