Welfare of people motivates new first sergeant

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Joseph Wheeler
  • 81st Support Squadron first sergeant
I recently celebrated my 16th year in the Air Force. While reflecting on my career, I wondeed about my motivation to become a first sergeant. Luckily, I was on the way to my weekly "long run" which included the Ocean Springs Bridge, so I had plenty of time to ponder the question. 

I always wanted to be a first sergeant, so I submitted my package for review a couple of months ago. I had been told many things about being a "shirt." Statements like, "It's difficult to make rank," "babysitter," and "too demanding" rang clearly in my head. 

As I pounded out the mileage, the endorphins made my thoughts a bit more acute. I realized that the majority of memorable moments in my military career involved teaching, congratulating and setting the wayward Airman on the course to success. On Mile 4 of my run, it dawned on me that the welfare of people was my motivation to become a first sergeant. 

People are the foundation of our aerospace dominance. What I want to convey is the lesson that I learned from myself. My life story is filled with missed opportunities mostly because I feared the unknown, gave up or failed to act. 

Most people think quitting is the "easy way out," but it's totally the opposite. It's easier to push through times of fear and distress because they're temporary, rather than give up or do nothing at all. Fighting through your adversities proves things aren't that terrible and increases self-confidence. 

Failing to act sticks with you the rest of your life. The voice in your head that says "I should have ... when I had the chance ... if only I didn't," will echo in your soul for eternity. 

I refuse to let that voice haunt me, so I made a personal decision not to let this opportunity pass me by. In the end, I may not become first sergeant of the year, but what I can promise is an intensity and focus that will be replicated every day for my commander and squadron personnel. 

Take a personal inventory. Look deep inside yourself to see what motivates you to excel. Think about what drives you to accomplish what you do every day, no matter what duty title you own. Feed that motivation and drive, making sure to put people first every step of the way. Don't be afraid to take on more responsibility or accept a more demanding position in your section or unit. 

My run was near completion. At Mile 7.3 of an 8-mile run, my legs were heavy and my shoes were waterlogged with sweat. I really wanted to give it up and walk the rest of the way. What do you think I did? What would you do?