Two guys walk into a bar

  • Published
  • By CMSgt Atticus C. Smith
  • Command Chief, 388th Fighter Wing
We've all heard jokes starting with the near famous "Two guys walk into a bar" opener. One evening, I nearly saw a live version play out. Earlier, I walked from my off-base lodging to a microbrewery for dinner and a cold brew. The restaurant wasn't too busy but the bar area was. Luckily there were some seats, so I sat at the very end bar stool leaving two seats open to my right. Within 30 minutes, I noticed two guys walk into the bar. I felt I was about to get some company, as predicted, the guys sat next to me.

They appeared to be in the military. You know the look...clean shaven, short haircut. It wasn't long before they confirmed my "CSI-like" analysis of their appearance. Within moments they started talking, and based on their discussion I learned both were enlisted, one with a line number to staff sergeant and the other a senior airman. To be clear, I wasn't eavesdropping, it's hard not hearing their conversation when they're sitting right next to me. This could potentially be a chance to hear some no kidding feedback if they "open the hangar doors," which typically happens with guys, most guys just love talking about work.

I sure didn't want to chat about work, so I kept to myself. Eventually, I learned that these young Airmen were assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing. How ironic is this? Two Airmen sitting next to their command chief and they don't have a clue. Not surprising since I only had three weeks on station.

Nestled in between the typical guy talk were short discussions about work, deployment experiences, some frustrations they were facing and some uncertainties they have. What I found quite interesting was that as often as I speak with young Airmen, either during formal sessions such as professional enhancement seminars or during informal walkabouts, I hardly ever receive honest, down-to-earth feedback that I was overhearing at the bar. As I chipped away at my dinner I began to ponder this predicament.

During formal and informal sessions it's often very hard to get Airmen to discuss their issues, concerns, frustrations or challenges. I know they have them, what I don't know is how to get them to tap into my knowledge and experiences in order to help them. In my view it's my inherent responsibility to develop and refine Airmen for tomorrow. At some point, my "tomorrow" will be my retirement ceremony and my obligation is to ensure I have prepared others to take the baton. How can I use this bar scene as a backdrop to get honest feedback? Then it hit me.

When customers order a draft beer the bartender pulls a tap handle and a steady stream of beer flows. The tap handle is just a mechanism to dispense the beer from the keg. The beer continues to dispense until the tap handle is pushed back, the keg runs out, or when the bar closes. Imagine that the keg is filled with life experiences, leadership philosophies, personal mistakes and successes, tough challenges, and years of frustrations and satisfactions. It's safe to say that SNCOs have already experienced many circumstances that our young Airmen find difficulty dealing with; whether in their personal or professional lives. If you rewound the above scene 15-years, you'd see me discussing very similar issues and concerns.

So belly up to the bar and tap into our knowledge, each time you do it's a happy hour for us. The more happy hours the better, this means business is good. You already have your VIP card; it's the stripes on your sleeves or the bars on your shoulders. Our keg will never run out and the bar is open 24/7. The bar's name is simple: Knowledge on D*R*A*F*T
Develop and Refine Airmen For Tomorrow.

We're always seeking customers. You matter to us so please feel free to walk into the bar. Bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.