Coping with Air Force's personnel challenges

  • Published
  • By Col. Glen Downing
  • 81st Training Wing vice commander
I recently attended a retirement ceremony for one of our finest master sergeants. Together we celebrated 25 years of magnificent service and an amazing career. But wait. You critical thinkers out there are doing the math and have already figured it out. You're right; the high-year tenure "rollback" caught this one. I can hear your grumbling. The Air Force robbed another great American of a successful career. Or did we?

I'll admit the ceremony was a little bittersweet. This senior noncommissioned officer certainly wanted to continue his career and advance in rank. In fact, he tested for senior right up to the end, eagerly awaiting test results prior to that final day. When I heard about the other decisions he made along the way, it all became very clear.

You see, early in his career, this master sergeant found himself the single parent of a young boy. He raised that young boy into a fine young man with values and purpose who is already a success and has his whole life in front of him. As many of you know firsthand, being a single parent is a great challenge.

Our master sergeant faced that challenge with style. He finished his college education and went on to earn a master's degree in business administration. He continued to advance in his career, moving from technical training instructor to professional military education instructor to career development course writer and finally squadron superintendent.

Somewhere in all that he found the time to meet a wonderful woman, get married and bring another young son into the world. His wife, an Air Force civilian, gives back to our community every day. So does our retired master sergeant, because now he is a civilian employee passing on his years of experience as a technical training instructor.

When I step back and take stock of this 25-year career, do I see some disappointment? Absolutely. More importantly, I see one of our nation's finest who made very real and crucial choices. He focused his attention on the things that were most important in his life and have the longest impact. His priorities forced some decisions that maybe weren't the best ones for making chief, but they were right for him. I consider him a tremendous success!

How are you coping with the many personnel challenges in our Air Force? What choices are you making? I challenge you to consider a few points when making those choices.

Don't dwell on what you can't control. Personnel adjustments will go on for a long time. Your best defense is to be the best Airman you can be. Do all the things we've trained and mentored you to do in order to continue advancing. Maintain an internal balance in your life. You must develop yourself technically, physically, mentally and emotionally.

Balance work, family, and play. Many of us reach our career goals only to turn around and find ourselves standing alone. Don't lose your family along the way and don't let work consume every minute of every day. Never lose your sense of humor, wonder and play.

Who knows where each of our careers will end? All you can do is tackle every day with energy and enthusiasm. There will be successes and there will be disappointments. A very wise man named Garth Brooks once sang, "I could've missed the pain, but I'd of had to miss the dance." Don't miss your dance!