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NEWS | Dec. 4, 2009

Service success tips

By Chief Master Sgt. Roddy Hartsook 79th Medical Wing command chief

I'm often asked the question of what it takes to be successful in our Air Force. Honestly, that's a very difficult question to answer as there are so many things that could be considered critical to individual-or even team-success. Sure, performing our assigned duties and accomplishing the Air Force mission is priority one and we should all focus in that direction, but what are the small things that contribute to the success or failure of us meeting that priority? I'm not talking about training or job performance; those things are a given. I'm talking about the very basics and in my opinion the things we tend to overlook far too often. So please take a look at these tips. I think you'll find that they will have a huge impact on your success.

Tip #1 - Focus on the things you can control.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, it's not. I read a study in "Reader's Digest" that stated the average American spends about 75 percent of their time concerned with issues they have zero control over. My challenge to you: stop focusing on things you can't control and redirect that energy to the things you can. Stop being distracted by things totally outside your realm of influence. We've all heard the phrase, "span of control." Well, what is your span of control, how big is it and what's inside it? If you can determine this and work specifically on the things within, it will go a long way in helping you become successful within our Air Force. There are many things we can influence. Highly successful people understand this and spend their time and energy in areas where they can make a difference. The point is, focus on the things that you control; these are the things that will have the most impact on your success.

Tip #2 - Be an Airman first and an Air Force Specialty Code second.

Bottom line, be prepared to do whatever the Air Force asks you to do. In today's smaller Air Force, it's more important than ever. When I joined in 1984, we had approximately 650,000 people on Active Duty. You could focus solely on your particular specialty because for the most part every AFSC was "fat." Today, we find ourselves much leaner, and we must be prepared to step outside our comfort zones and do whatever the Air Force requires of us to get the mission accomplished - we are all, in fact, all in. If you first think of yourself as an Airman, you'll be more apt to volunteer for those jobs that give you a breadth of experience that will help you become a better leader later in your career. A couple examples that come to mind are the honor guard, and for you Master Sergeants-how about becoming a first sergeant? If you want to branch out while staying within your field, you might consider becoming a technical school instructor or volunteering for that obscure assignment that nobody else seems to take. As Airmen we're taught to think outside the box. I'll ask you to be ready and willing to perform outside the box as well.

Tip #3 - Study for a promotion ... no, I mean really study for a promotion.
For our enlisted force, this is one that always gets me. Our people just don't study for their exams. Don't believe me, then check out the average scores for these tests over the years. Without looking, I'm going to guess it's somewhere around 55 percent. The one thing I always like to tell people to focus on with regards to promotion is that your peers will not study, so why not take advantage of that? The funny part about this is that when I ask those not selected for promotion if they studied, most will say they did. But when you really peel back the onion, what they actually did is just read the professional development guide or glance over their career development guide a few times. In most cases, this method of studying won't get you promoted. You have to tear those books up to do well on the exams. You have to make flash cards, notes, whatever. Just reading the books won't get it done. Most of all, you have to commit yourself.

Tip #4 - If you're early, you're on time. If you're on time, you're late. If you're late, you're fired.
Okay, not literally fired, but you get the point. Be early to everything. Your reliability will go a long way in ensuring the success of your career. I know this is just a very small thing, but it's something you have total control over, so why not do it right. I'll say it again, your promptness and reliability are absolutely critical to a successful Air Force career.

Tip #5 - Acknowledge e-mails.
This is important; if you receive an e-mail from someone giving you information or asking you to do something (or whatever really), answer up that you received the e-mail. Most folks think you should only do this as a rule of thumb for e-mails from senior members. You should acknowledge e-mails from everybody. A simple "thank you," or, "got it," or, "I'm on it," is sufficient in most cases.

I sincerely hope you find these tips useful. They've worked for me. You see, it's not the one-time, big deal "gee-whiz" things that determine our success, it's the small things we do day in and day out that truly make a difference for ourselves, our teams and our Air Force.