Some good advice from a senior enlisted leader

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs
My wife Bobbi and I approached his table slowly. It's a rare occasion to meet somebody of this magnitude in an Air Force career in passing, much less for an extended sit-down talk.

We were at a dinner social on McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. In total, there were probably 30 to 40 people at this gathering. We all had different reasons why we were there, but mostly it was to meet and greet one of the Air Force's top leaders.

After formal exchanges, we sat down and began to talk. To be honest, at first I didn't know what to ask of this leader. So I started talking with him about things from his biography. I think he may have thought that to be silly, my wife included, but my nerves were getting the best of me so I went with instinct.

In any case, the conversation carried on. We talked about career and family. I found out he's a grandparent like me and has a great love for his family, both personal and professional, just as I do. I learned more about his points of view on the Air Force he sees in the future and how proud he is of "our Air Force."

Toward the end of the conversation, I asked him, "What is your definition of success?" To my surprise, his answer was very simple, yet broken into different areas.

First he said, "Be the best at your job that you possibly can be."

I understood that statement as, in terms of being successful, you should work hard and do the best you possibly can no matter what is thrown your way at work or in life. To me, this embodied our Air Force core value of excellence in all we do.

This senior leader then added, "Take care of your family and those closest to you. They are the ones who will be there with you long after the military."

All I could do was agree. I've always believed that we should never forget our wingmen at home. I've learned that after 17 years in the Air Force, the one thing that has been always consistent for me is my family. They've always been there when I needed them. I also know they will be there long after I retire.

Finally, this senior leader said what I believe to be the best advice. He said, "Be true to yourself, your family and your fellow Airmen. Be proud of who you are and remember our core values."

Integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do are our core values and I know by using them you can be true to yourself, your family and your fellow Airmen. To me, hearing this advice, was like hearing from the wise man on the mountain top. The words reflected how I feel in many ways and made me proud to be an Airman.

This wise senior leader my wife and I talked to was Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney J. McKinley. In a way, I was one of the last Airmen to ask this 30-year Air Force hero some good career advice before he retires. I hope he knows, I'll look at them as words to live by.