Taking Care of People

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Bruce Spence
  • 33d Maintenance Operations Squadron First Sergeant
Over the past couple of months, I've had the pleasure to attend several retirement ceremonies with several more planned over the coming year. I can't help but "cringe" each time I hear the words, "you are hereby relieved from active duty..." I know the day will come when it is me standing up there before family and friends, hearing those memorable words. It causes me to think about all the years of service these individuals have given, the lives they have touched and the people they have taken care of. Ask any retiree what they miss most about being in the Air Force and most will say the people. 

Taking care of people is high on my list of priorities and is something that we should not take lightly. 

In my opinion, there are five main areas that need to be addressed in order to truly take care of our people. Remember, these are my opinions and you may not agree with them, but I feel very strongly about them and hope you will take a moment to digest what I am talking about. 

Timely and accurate performance feedback: This area is one of the most important yet most neglected areas. This is where expectations are established, clarified and followed up on. Everyone has the right to know what the expectations are and how well they are meeting those expectations! Supervisors, DO NOT let someone leave your office unsure of where they stand with you. It's your responsibility...take it seriously. Are you also aware that you MUST provide the member a copy of the most current Air Force Benefits Fact Sheet during the feedback? 

Timely and accurate evaluations: Are you starting to see a common theme? In order to take care of our people, "timely" and "accurate" are starting points that can't be ignored. Timely means giving yourself enough time to write the Enlisted Performance Report, coordinate it with your rater, and submit it up the chain of command. This doesn't mean submitting your initial rough draft to the Commander's Support Staff by the suspense date. By the time the EPR gets to the CSS it should be ready for the commander's signature. When talking about the accuracy of the report, this means telling the truth, bottom-line. If you have discussed your expectations during the feedback process, there should be no surprises when it comes EPR time. Just another note on EPRs...you don't have to wait for a report on individual personnel from the CSS to start writing the EPR. As a supervisor, you should know exactly when the EPR is due and plan accordingly. 

Training and train your replacement: We all know the importance of having the training to do our jobs. It is also important not to be the only individual in your section trained on a particular task. How many times have you walked into an office looking for assistance, only to be informed that the person who can help you is on leave or at lunch? Give training the high priority it deserves! 

Quarterly, annual and other awards: Recognize your superstars! I don't know how many times I have seen a fire-wall 5 EPR come across my desk yet the individual has never been nominated for a quarterly award. This simply amazes me! I do understand that producing a well-written 1206 takes time that a lot of us claim not to have...but our people are worth it. Send the right message by writing and submitting 1206's on those individuals who clearly exceed the standards...it benefits everyone in the long run. AFI 36-2805, Special Trophies and Awards, also covers many other awards that are out there. Take time to see if anyone in your section meets the criteria and submit if appropriate. 

Decorations: Decorations are not automatic, as some may think. Coming from overseas, I routinely heard individuals complaining that they were not receiving an Air Force Achievement Medal or Air Force Commendation Medal, later finding out that their service during their tour was less than stellar. On the flipside, if their service during the tour was honorable and they exceeded the established standards, then the appropriate decoration was warranted and would be supported. As with EPRs, you do not have to wait for a DÉCOR 6 from the CSS to write the decoration. 

Okay, I'll jump off my soap box for now. My intent is to get everyone thinking about taking care of each other. For many of you, this is old news...please continue to take care of your people and prepare them to take your place. If you are new to supervising, I challenge you to learn as much as you can about your people and dedicate yourself to taking care of them. It will pay huge dividends!