Night to Day in 32 Steps

  • Published
  • By CMSgt. Atticus C. Smith
  • Command Chief, 388th Fighter Wing
Serving as a command chief, I've learned that the position feels like an extended ride on the emotional roller coaster. When I served as a squadron superintendent I certainly took a few rides; however, looking back they were kiddy rides at Disneyland. At wing level, the span of influence and responsibility is ten-fold which turns the kiddy ride into a monster. Sure I have the pleasure of celebrating in many successes, not just across all units within the wing but across the base as well as across the major command; however, I'm also privy to daily lows. One day I was at the bottom of the loop but was quickly catapulted to the top in 32 steps.

At Hill AFB, we've had serious issues with the behaviors displayed by some airmen in the dormitories. Day rooms that turned into frat houses, trash spewing inside and outside, vandalism, and thefts called for an increased leadership presence. As a result, over the course of two months, all dorms were scheduled for an early morning no-notice morale, health, and welfare inspection. All airmen were bussed away to provide urine samples and every room was inspected, which started with using drug dogs. With the aftermath of the inspections somewhat in the rearview mirror, I visited the dormitories for a random walk-through. So starts the emotional roller coaster.

Conditions were fairly decent as I traveled from dorm-to-dorm, random room-to-random room. Soon, I came upon some airmen doing basic cleaning around the common areas. Over a short discussion I learned that each of them made a decision to use illegal drugs, such as spice or heroin. What an unfortunate series of events, just a short time ago, maybe less than a year, they proudly wore the uniform of a United States service member, now they are spending their final days of service picking up cigarette butts. Back to the rooms I go.

As I ascended to the second floor, I knocked on a door and an airman answered. Somewhat shocked to see the command chief, I break the ice with a short introduction but I immediately notice that he has a nose piercing. As I entered his room, I felt as if I arrived shortly after an F2 tornado. Then, I noticed the Air Force symbol in his room, so I asked him what the three diamonds on the bottom signify; he knew exactly...our core values. I stood silently and scanned his room, and then I asked him if his room showed any resemblance of Excellence. Then I asked if wearing a nose piercing, even in his own room, resembled Integrity...doing what's right even when no one is looking. Then I asked how long it has been since his supervisor engaged him outside of work. He couldn't provide a definitive answer. Back to the rooms I go.

As I ascended to the third floor, I knocked on a door and an airman answered. Somewhat shocked to see the command chief, I break the ice with a short introduction but I immediately notice that a noncommissioned officer, dressed in ABUs, was in the room. I sarcastically asked, what the heck he was doing, and the NCO replied, "Chief, we were just going over some training before our shift starts." Wow, what a night and day difference!

On the second floor, I met an arman pushing and exceeding the limits of good order and discipline with no clear answer as to the last time his supervisor visited him. Unacceptable! On the third floor, I met an NCO, hitting the books with his airman providing career developmental training prior to their shift. Outstanding! Certainly a clear distinction between the level of leadership engagement.

It's no coincidence that the airman's room on the third floor was clean, neat, and orderly, a room any mom would be proud of. It's that way due in part because his supervisor is an engaged leader. He's not just a part of his airman's life in the confines of the work environment. Furthermore, the young arman understands that he is a representation of his supervisor, both on and off-duty, and the NCO understands that he must be a good example to his airmen.

Thank you SSgt. Jeffery Paras and Amn. Robert Richwine for representing the enlisted corps so very well. Continue to bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.