Two axioms from an old man

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Justin Fortune
  • 33rd Maintenance Squadron commander
Hopefully we all have had a sage old veteran pass some age old advice to us. I did when I was a young second lieutenant. He was my group commander at the time and I consider him my first mentor in the Air Force. Colonel X, as I will call him, ended his very successful career as a 30-year colonel. He gave me some invaluable advice that I willingly share with anyone and I truly believe his wisdom rings true. That advice was to not worry about what your job is, just do your
best in whatever job you have and have faith that your boss will do the right thing and take care of you.

I have always tried to adhere to this philosophy. I believe it has two essential ingredients in it. First, do your best always, this equates to our core value of "excellence in all we do." Second, to live this philosophy,one must place faith in the Air Force and our leaders. This is a vital part of being a good follower.

Additionally, this philosophy matched well with the advice he gave me on career
progression. Simply, he told me that there are no definite paths in a career. There are some definites in terms of promotion and completing your appropriate level of professional military education. But, in terms of what jobs, there were and are no definites. Yes, there are some generally understood positions that lead to
opportunities, i.e. operations officer to squadron commander, squadron commander to deputy group commander. But, once again, he stated it all depends how well you do a job. He was able to outline many who at the time had risen to rank through different and varying career paths. What they all had in common was they had performed well in whatever position they held.

Colonel X's advice has worked for me. During my career I have held the same job I had as a second lieutenant as a mid-level captain (at different bases). This could have been seen as a step back in my career. My staff experience is limited to a job few are aware of and almost no one respects--I built training plans for foreign nations. Another tour took me out of the maintenance community for three years as I went to language school and a two year tour in a foreign air force. Finally, I was a major for three and a half years before I received my first command. This was not a stereotypical path for an aircraft maintainer; but, by always doing my best and having faith in the Air Force system, I have made it to lieutenant colonel on time and still have the opportunity to be promoted in the future.

To sum up my first axiom: Always do your best and good things will happen (excellence in all we do).

Another philosophy that has served me well is just keeping it simple. I believe life is simple if you allow it to be. Many times we convolute life and life's events with
complicators. For example, dishonesty--this almost inevitably leads to more dishonesty and deceit. Why complicate a bad or a good situation with lies. Stick to the truth; it will set you free. Yes, you may face punishment or rewards for your honesty, but in the end, the just action will occur. Internally, you will not have to deal with the stress of maintaining a lie. Honesty is the best policy, aligning with
our first core value, integrity.

My second axiom: Keep it simple and tell the truth (integrity).