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Being Excellent

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- What does it mean to be excellent? Webster's Dictionary defines it as superior; first-class. As an Airman we hear the term "stellar," associated with Airmen that are excellent. These are the ones that stand out above the rest, and set themselves apart. The rewards for being excellent are innumerable. For example: recognition, honor and a sense of self-pride for your work. These kinds of things not only affect you, but others around you. Being excellent is contagious, and it is eye opening. Once one Airman becomes excellent he or she wants others to succeed; they see it and want it as well. This article isn't a success story about excellence, it's about what it means, and how to be excellent. You see, excellence isn't that hard to accomplish as an Airman. Let's not take my word for it; it just so happen the Air Force tells us exactly what the formula is for being excellent right in AFI 36-2618, Chapter 3, Section 1. There are eight main points the AFI offers us as Airmen, and I'm going to attempt to make this practical as it applies to our daily lives in the workforce.
  1. Get work done on time. This is simple really. When your supervisor tasks you with a job, devote your full focus and energy to the completion of the task. Excellent in this category would mean either completing the task early or taking the initiative to complete more than the required work for the task.
  2. Safety. We are constantly getting emails about safety, but what does this mean to Airmen? It means learning to balance enjoying the work environment without taking things too far. There's nothing wrong with camaraderie in or out of the office, but an excellent Airman knows what to look for when things are getting out of hand.
  3. Education, training, and experience. We live in a world benefited and immersed in education, and it is not hard to understand why keeping up to date on training and seeking education is invaluable to the Air Force. An excellent Airman finishes training tasks before suspense dates, and seeks education on his/her own.
     
  4.  Mission readiness. This has 4 parts: Technical, Physical, Mental, and Spiritual.

    a. Technical- An Excellent Airman seeks to be technically equipped to do his/her job. For example: completing CBT's, ITE 5-Level Training, and CDC's. Being excellent is not waiting for your supervisor to bug you about getting these things done. It means taking the initiative to ask him/her yourself what is left to be complete, and finishing them in a timely manner. Also, think about how outside education opportunities such as college courses can also better equip you to perform your job with the utmost level of expertise.

    b. Physical- This is another one of those areas we hear about often in the Air Force. The minimum requirement for all Air Force personnel is passing the PT Test. An excellent Airman is one that strives to go beyond and pushes themselves for the excellent score. Understand that Physical Readiness is not just about passing a PT test, but it's also about being healthy and physically equipped to carry out the daily mission.

    c. Mental- Often, our personal lives become intertwined with our work. This can negatively affect how efficiently we perform our jobs and can cause unnecessary drama in what is suppose to be a professional environment. Excellent Airmen can separate work from their personal lives. A way of doing this is to make a list of tasks you have to complete during the week for both work and personal life. Doing this will allow you to separate the two, allowing you to keep your personal matters out of the office, and just as important, keeping your work at work.

    d. Spiritual- We all have our own beliefs. As Airmen it's our responsibility to use these beliefs to overcome emotional and mental obstacles such as the examples given in Enlisted Force Structure like: stress, hardship, and tragedy. Often these overwhelming situations cause us to want to give up. An excellent Airman is one that can harness their beliefs to shape the success in dealing with these situations, providing them with the ability to bounce back from failures, and to continue on the path of success. We all make mistakes, its part of being an Airman in the junior enlisted tier. What we do after making those mistakes is what determines the quality of our character.
     
  5.  Standards. From the very beginning we've been trained on how to wear the Air Force uniform properly, and how to greet officers and senior NCOs. The minimum applications of these are simple. To go beyond is to attempt to wear the uniform as a reflection of who you want to be. If you want to be excellent then let that show through the way you dress. First impressions are just that, it's what people think when they first look at you. Take a good look in the mirror; ask yourself, "Does this uniform look sharp, or make people think I'm proud of my appearance?" If the answer is no, give it a wash, take it to the cleaners, clip a few strings, or better yet, wear another one that looks better. We were all issued more than one so do not let that be an excuse for looking poorly, be excellent! As far as customs and courtesies, we as Airmen should all know when to salute, and when to stand up, and if you don't ask someone! Again, not knowing is inexcusable, and this area is an easy way to stand out and feel a sense of pride in being an excellent Airman.
     
  6. Wingman Concept. We are all here for each other. To deny that is to deny the teamwork that takes place to accomplish the mission. No mission can be done solo. As Airmen we are required to work together on a daily basis. An excellent Airman is a wingman that involves other Airmen in their work, and gives others the opportunity to shine. This doesn't mean just at work either, even off duty. Volunteering to help out with Airman Against Drunk Driving, or providing a helping hand to a deployed Airman's family while he/she is gone are just two ways we can be Wingmen off duty.
     
  7. Followership. We are all human, even our leaders need encouragement. As Junior Enlisted Airmen it is our responsibility to provide our leaders with ways we can become better at what we do, and to affirm the things they are doing to better us. Disagreements will take place. Excellent Airmen are ones that are able to not only point out the specific problems relating to the controversy, but to also provide solutions. Bickering and complaining is a spinning tire never meeting the road. Solutions and compromises are when the rubber meets the road and when the issue can take its course to resolve. We as Airmen must learn how to be good followers to our leaders, before we can become good leaders.
     
  8. Professional Development. This area is touched on in other areas. Being professional is important in every work environment, whether you are in the Air Force or in the civilian world. Often it's easy to get entrapped by the fact that the Air Force has rules, and that these rules shape our lives in ways other careers would not. The fact is, they are the rules of this culture, and any work environment. How much more, because we are in the military, do we need to develop our abilities to be professional and represent the military in its professionalism? This can be done by getting involved in other organizations outside of work like Airmen Committed to Excellence, or the Booster Club. An excellent Airman is one that sees the importance of a professional attitude and view on life.
So, as you can see, the formula for success contains many parts. What's important is that we realize that excellence isn't something we should just strive for in our work place. It's something we should strive for in every part of our lives. Being part of the junior enlisted tier mandates requirements to complete the minimum. Knowing this, the formula for excellence is simple. Excellence equals beyond minimum; exceeding the standard. To each his own, but I encourage all of you reading this to be excellent; be that Airman that all other Airmen want to be; that they look up to. Be the one that Commanders know, not because of your mistakes, but because you went above and beyond. In doing so, we can all invite the Airmen around us to be excellent so we can make this a better Air Force for us all.