'Brewed with passion' brings satisfaction, success

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Atticus Smith
  • 388th Fighter Wing, Command Chief
Shortly after I sat down in an airport bar the waitress came over, placed a coaster down and then took my order. While I waited for my order, the coaster caught my attention. I forget what beer was advertised; however, its catch phrase was "brewed with passion." I've met many Airmen who are brewed with passion, and they're the ones I'll always respect. They're brewed with Professionalism, Attitude, Style, Service, Inspiration, Opportunities and Nurturing.

Basic military training instills our high standards and professional foundation. The challenge is to ensure the foundation doesn't erode from our behaviors. Erosion of professionalism can be thwarted with leadership engagement. Lt. Col. James Slife, a former squadron commander of mine, echoed the leadership beliefs of Gen. Wilbur "Bill" Creech who advocated: "It's only on TV where you have a Black Sheep Squadron; all laid back and sloppy, and yet they shoot down more fighters than anyone else. That is absolute nonsense. Outfits with lousy standards invariably are incompetent outfits." Having high standards and maintaining the level of professionalism that was instilled at basic training is much about one's attitude.

And attitudes must be positive! Anyone who studies Air Force history will quickly learn that it's riddled with monumental challenges. A few include: our transition to a separate service; pay and housing issues; the Korean and Vietnam Wars; and the integration of African Americans and women. As the old saying goes ... "With great challenges comes great opportunities." I've learned a lot from people who take that statement to heart. Our current state and future certainly isn't short of challenges or less than desirable circumstances. A positive attitude can cause a chain reaction of positive thoughts and outcomes. Attitude is closely tied to style.

How people react when changes or new policies are introduced is critical. The Air Force changes with societal norms, budgetary constraints and technological advances. Is your style supportive or stubborn? Some changes are hard to understand, but do you try to learn why so you can lead the change or at least be a faithful follower? A long time ago, I was told that temper tantrums are for kids. To be continually stubborn is unacceptable. It isn't blind obedience, if you have input then by all means voice it, but when it comes to "this is the way forward"... you should say, "forward march." That's what happens when one is proud to serve.

People often love to nitpick at all of the things that are "wrong" with the Air Force. Some are extremely vocal as they count down the days, months or even years until they get out. I've never gravitated to those types. I've gravitated to those people whose demeanor shows they count each day as a bonus and are grateful for all the things the Air Force does right, and that's a lot! Seeing people who are proud to serve and who lead by example is inspiring.

In various enlisted forums I often ask Airmen to describe the enlisted leaders who've inspired them. The responses aren't far from the responses I'd give. What's interesting is that the responses essentially describe the Enlisted Force Structure and our "Core Values." Airmen who live these documents through word and deed inspire Airmen, to include myself. We look up to those who exceed standards, have courage, hold people accountable, are fit, are engaged in all aspects of an Airman's life and take advantage of and lead others to opportunities.

The Air Force provides so many opportunities; educational, professional and leadership to name a few. I'm a product of those opportunities mostly due to leaders setting the tone and environment to take advantage of them. Even when I was nervous to lean forward or didn't have the motivation, I'd be "volun-told." Leaders who take advantage of opportunities and open the door for others set the appropriate tone and naturally nurture our Airmen.

Leaders must nurture, grow and mold our Airmen. Our Airmen shouldn't be viewed merely as a means to an end. Nurturing shouldn't be confused with coddling because the willingness to discipline and enforce standards is essential. If you look closely at my stripes you'll see over a thousand faces staring back. They nurtured me and understood their No. 1 job as a leader was to create future leaders by properly balancing mission engagement and people engagement.

There are certainly plenty of leadership concoctions available; however, I don't think you can go wrong if you order something brewed with P.A.S.S.I.O.N.

Bring credit and honor to the U.S. Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.