As bright and shiny as a new penny

  • Published
  • By Command Chief Master Sgt. Jeannie McLean
  • 82nd Training Wing command chief
A number of my friends and heroes (I think the term now is mentors - but they were always heroes to me) are retiring this year. Hearing them discuss their careers and giving their current views has me thinking about the difference between how you feel when you first join the Air Force and how you change in the years that follow.

Enthusiastic. Motivated. Positive. Bright. "Your possibilities are endless." Remember when this described you?

The Airmen enlisting today know we have been at war for 17 years. They've watched CNN. They've seen the casualties - and they still enlisted.

They are proud to be in the U.S. Air Force. They take pride in their uniforms and their ability to march. They like the Air Force emblem on their backpacks, their clothing bags and their t-shirts. They are as bright and shiny as a new penny.

And then - they have a conversation with someone who's been in for awhile. Someone who uses phrases like "mandatory fun" and wants to tell them "what the real Air Force is like." This same person tells them that someday they won't have to wear their uniform to functions downtown and they can be "comfortable" in their civilian clothes. This one person changed the Airman's outlook and began tarnishing our Airman the same way a penny is tarnished over time.

This doesn't just happen to Airmen in Training. We also do it to the motivated Airman or NCO who shows up to work in our office. We are all thrilled when they show up; so why do we work so hard to discourage them?

I'm a big fan of Professional Military Education and the Senior NCO and NCO enhancement courses. We take you out of your day in and day out job and remind you why you joined the Air Force in the first place. We "re-blue" you. I recommend you take every opportunity available to attend these courses.

Every day we influence someone either positively or negatively - and you never know who is watching and listening to you. Someone will follow your example. As leaders, we determine the attitude in our classrooms, in our work centers and in our organizations. You have a responsibility to look for the positive in everything.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Donald Hatcher has written a leadership book entitled "Pillars of Strength."

In his book he says, "Attitude determines disposition. Disposition determines morale. A leader's attitude should be cheerful, positive, and optimistic - at least in public. Yell, argue, debate as you need in private, but when you walk into public view, you need to be onboard. Give them a good, positive, professional attitude to follow."

The next time you come across an individual with bright and shiny energy - don't take them down, let them lift you up and remind you that your possibilities are still endless.