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The secret to a successful career!

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- One of the most frequently asked questions I hear as a commander is, "What is the key to a successful career?" The answer is simple: Keep in the front of your mind what military service means, and practice the simple rules your parents taught you when you were five years old. 

It helps to start by remembering that military service is just that....service. If you have any expectations that the military owes you something, like a certain job, or a certain decoration, or a certain promotion, then you are setting yourself up for disappointment. The hallmark of a successful Airman is one who serves his or her country without any expectation of reward. The reward is getting to serve your country. Thinking of military service as a privilege can take you half way towards the goal of a successful career. The second half of the journey involves conducting yourself as a professional. 

First, be respectful to others. Many people might say that respect is a nebulous word that is hard to define and harder still to incorporate in an organization. I'll submit, however, that each of us has a crystal clear image of this concept. How would you act if General Moseley walked through the door right now? I would wager to guess any of us would act courteous, polite, helpful, and humble. Each of us would act like a professional. This example illustrates an easy way of taking the very complex idea of respect and making it simple. If you ever have a question about how you ought to act towards others, just act as you would if someone you've always admired and respected walked through your door. It doesn't matter if they are an airman basic, a civilian, or the wing commander. We all deserve the same dignity and respect. It's a simple standard that your parents taught you when you were five years old. 

Second, maintain your integrity. What I mean by integrity is that each of us examines our conscience and acts on what we know is the right thing to do in each situation. For example, you're with a group of your buddies in the break room and a fellow Airman enters the room. One of your friends makes an off color joke. Conscience is that part of your character that tells you your friend was wrong. Integrity is that part of your character that compels you to act to eliminate that kind of unprofessional behavior even if it might weaken or break your friendship. If you're ever unsure about what to do, just follow this simple rule: What would your most respected role model do? If your role model would be ashamed of your action, or inaction, or if your parents would be disappointed in you, then you may not be acting with integrity. 

Third, have courage. It goes without saying that it takes uncommon courage to risk your friendships, and sometimes your job, to do what is right. But we must remember that our mission is to create a combat ready force of professionals who produce airpower. That mission can never be accomplished if we don't treat each other with respect and have the courage to maintain our integrity. It takes courage to hold each other to a higher standard, but that is what serving our country is all about. Service above self often means putting the good of the Air Force ahead of our personal preferences. That takes courage. 

Why will these three simple principles make for a successful career? Because they are the engine that makes an organization like the Air Force so great. These are the characteristics that your supervisors and commanders are looking for in you. If you develop and nurture these core characteristics in your personality, then any career aspirations you might have will take care of themselves and you will be surprised at the sense of personal satisfaction you get from being a professional Airman in the Air Force. It's important to keep the perspective that a successful career is not measured by what job you get or what rank you receive. It is getting to serve your country with honor and dignity--simple to say, hard to do....but you already learned that when you were five years old.