Survival tips for the next generation Airman

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tim Hensley
  • 509th Communications Squadron
Under the current philosophy of do more with less, it's important to keep your wits, convey a positive attitude and try to find humor in the daily grind. Remember, we must always maintain and sharpen our skills in the profession of arms, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun. To help you succeed, I am going to share with you some lessons I have learned along the way.

When I enlisted, I was extremely uptight and thought everything was vitally important to mission success. I couldn't have been more wrong. The art of prioritization and time management takes years to master and can make the difference for success.

During my time at rescue swimmer school, I learned that what is truly important and what I thought were important were not the same. There wasn't one event or moment that changed my philosophy, but instead it was the mission of the rescue swimmer that changed my attitude.

The motto, "We die so others may live" was ingrained in my head and soon after graduation it reformulated my beliefs. I determined there were three questions which needed to be asked when prioritizing activities. Is there the potential for loss of life? How is someone's family affected? How are someone's finances involved?

The biggest lesson I learned when I became a rescue swimmer was the importance of activities that have the potential for human casualties. I now understand the difference between a mountain and a mole hill, and I give potential for loss of life the highest order of importance when it comes to time management.

Next is the importance of family, since it is hard for anyone to concentrate when their family is suffering. It is important to ensure those around you make their family a priority as it will affect everything they do, including their ability to concentrate on those activities where loss of life is possible.

Finally, financial security is vital because whenever money is involved people can and will act differently. Experiencing financial difficulties can affect how someone acts and performs at work or at home.

I am not saying everyone must use these three categories, since you will have to formulate your own methodology for prioritization of activities. I am simply offering a way to maintain some sanity during these trying times and suggesting three survival tips for the next generation Airman.

First, remember bureaucrats blindly obey whatever set of rules they are instructed to follow, even when these rules result in illogical or nonsensical actions. Try to keep bureaucrats out of your work center.

Don't misunderstand this advice when one of the prioritization categories mentioned above is affected. Additionally, ensure organizational instructions and rules are followed to avoid jeopardizing them. Instructions are designed to provide guidance to intelligent people who use their heads, and are not intended for blindly obedient robots.

In today's Air Force, we have the opportunity to correct those instructions written during a time when manning was not an issue. Air Force Smart Operations 21 is the Air Force method to formally identify instructions which are obsolete or can no longer be supported.

Prior to submitting your formal AFSO 21 paperwork, provide the suggestion or solution through your chain of command. Leadership throughout the base is anxious to have this vital information to take to higher headquarters.

While you may want many or all of your suggestions to make a difference, they inevitably may not be implemented. If this frustrates you, remember you did your job and displayed integrity by raising the issue. Don't let things upset or frustrate you that are beyond your control.

Second, successful people make the most of an opportunity while never expecting to achieve great levels of success. Timing, circumstances and planning separate one person from the next. In many cases, it is the prepared individual who planned accordingly who succeeds, not necessarily the person who works the hardest, longest or gets the most face time.

It is important to realize that many people who succeed were in the right place, in the right job and all the pieces fell into place. Don't be envious or jealous of these people, but think about your future and make your plans for success.

Always bear in mind that even under the best of circumstances you will have only limited control over the course of future events. Don't look at the successes and certainly not the failures of others for your advancement.

Finally, go to work with a smile on your face, spread enthusiasm and encourage others to make a difference by taking action. Often, someone will tell me what they would like to do to make things better, but months later they are still talking about their idea and have not taken any action. There is no excuse for inaction, especially when problems are realized because of your negligence.

As a leader, if you have ideas that could help correct a situation, act on them. If resources are too limited to cut down the forest, then start cutting the trees. While cutting the trees put a smile on your face. A great attitude and the proper perspective will take you a long way in your life and in your career.