What is being the “Chief” really about?

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Vatema Ivy
  • 509th Services Squadron
Months ago I was selected for promotion to Chief Master Sgt. Each day I wonder if I could live up to the expectations that the Air Force has on this very important position.

For those of you that know me, I'm a learner and I try to learn something new everyday. So I was very excited to go to a few courses that would give me some insight on what being a Chief is about and further my military professional education.

My first course was the Air Combat Command Chief's Orientation back in January and just recently I attended the Chief's Leadership Course in Alabama. I've learned a great deal and I will continue to learn something everyday because I believe if you are not learning you are not progressing. Also, that knowledge needs to be passed down to our Airmen so that they can take care of the mission when we are no longer able to.

About one month ago I reached out to past and present mentors for any words of advice and lessons learned that will help me succeed in my new role and give me insight into this new world.

I have learned quite a few things that I thought were important to share with those looking to make the top one percent of enlisted force or those just looking to become better supervisors and mentors themselves.

I've received a lot of feedback and learned many lessons from people with anywhere from 16 to 30 years of experience in the Air Force. There were many tidbits of advice sent my way but I will share three lessons with you today that I thought were very interesting.

First of all, many told me to revel in my accomplishment, enjoy it but get over it, because it's not all about you anymore (not that it was before) but now you belong to the "BIG" Air Force. Get over it, I thought they must be out of their minds I've waited what seemed like a life time to get to this moment and now you're telling me to get over it.

After some deep thought, I realized what they meant. They meant that it is good to take time to enjoy the moment with your friends and family, but at some point you have to get back to work and concentrate on those things and people that got you where you are because it's not about you anymore; you belong to the Air Force.

Here is what I took from that first piece of advice: the Chief needs to be available to the Airmen 24/7...no matter what. Not that I wasn't available 24/7 before, I pride myself on being there for those that take care the Air Force mission everyday, but now it is different.

You are the Chief and they look up to you even more now and they need/want your mentorship, guidance and above all else your leadership. Airmen believe the Chief has all the answers, therefore, you as the Chief need to be able to answer their questions and if you don't know the answer, find it as soon as possible and let them know. Not getting back to them is a quick way to lose your credibility.

Second, you don't know everything. As the Chief, you're expected to know everything. Why else would you have been promoted to Chief? The truth is - and the sooner you acknowledge this, the sooner you'll be a chief - you don't know everything. In fact, the wiser you become, the more you'll realize how little you do know. The key is to know others who do know. They're usually called Airmen, non-commissioned officer, and other senior NCOs.

One of the last bits of advice I have gotten is "be you". Remember as you move forward in your career what got you there is the person that you are. Change will happen when ever you pin-on regardless of what stripe it is, remain true to the things that got you to this point and this will help you lead your Airmen much better. Remember to "Do You". As I look back on the sacrifices that my family and I have made to get to this point, I can say that so far it is worth it. All of the studying, long nights, early mornings and stress was worth now being called "Chief". I recall one of the last scenes in the movie titled Saving Private Ryan where Tom Hanks is dying and he's talking to Private Ryan. He tells the young man for whom many sacrificed their lives in order to bring him home safely, "Earn this!" Such is my charge to you. Earn this. Now I am a Chief select. I will do what it takes to really be worthy of those stripes I will eventually wear on my sleeves. I will wear them in my heart and will earn them every day. These lessons I've shared are no only applicable to the "Chief" these are lessons that can be applicable to anyone in a leadership or supervisory position. Remember it's not about you, you don't know everything so search out folks that know the answer, and lastly just be yourself whether you are an Airman, NCO, SNCO or an Officer? What will you do today to make a difference in our Air Force?