Excellence…Why it’s Important-Now More than Ever

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Brian LaBounty
  • 314 Airlift Wing, Little Rock Air Force Base, Command Chief
Would you agree there is an opportunity for Airmen of all ranks to improve their individual performance? If so, how does one become better or even excellent as an Airman? I say "Just do it!" I could stop there, as I believe the Nike slogan is brilliant and applicable to almost any situation. However, for the sake of discussion, let me amplify. Many times as human beings, who happen to be Airmen, we decide to better ourselves in some capacity. Perhaps it's the realization that one needs to lose weight, improve on physical fitness, or be better educated. Maybe it's a desire to be promoted and the subsequent recognition that to achieve that goal a study regimen must be applied.  Whatever the case, talking about it, though a logical start, is not enough. Action must be taken. We must "just do it!"

The challenge in this is that although we may have the best of intentions, follow through does not always occur. Airmen get tired for a myriad of reasons, whether it's tied to operations tempo, family related requirements or, arguably the most obvious, because they're human beings. Additionally, doing what we know, or perhaps have always done, is easier than stretching ourselves or stepping out of our comfort zones. In essence, striving to improve one's self is work. I submit however, that it is absolutely worth doing!

For many years of my enlisted career, our nation has been at war. Throughout this period I have witnessed the following manpower-mission dynamics: more than enough manpower to accomplish the mission, doing more with less, less with less, and finally doing what we have to do...with what we have. Regardless the characterization, one thing is seemingly constant: resources, whether manifested in money or manpower, are finite. Because of this, it is imperative that each individual member of team Air Force is the best he and she can be. Teams are undeniably important, but are in fact, comprised of individuals.

As the Air Force draws down to the lowest manpower level in its 67 year existence, dependence on and confidence in the Airmen that remain is paramount. Additionally, Integrity, Service, and Excellence, in word and deed, are arguably more critical now than they have ever been. As the institution evolves, so too must its Airmen. This evolution causes stress that can be good or bad depending on an individual's ability to adapt. The domains of Comprehensive Airmen Fitness (mental, physical, social and spiritual) provide a solid foundation to anchor during periods of turbulence. If Airmen strive to better themselves across the domains, they will logically be more prepared to deal with adversity, as well as manage the rigors of daily duties.

As alluded to in the previous paragraph, adherence to our core values is critical. Of the three, the one I latch on to the most is Excellence. This is not intended to imply the other two are less important, rather that to me if an Airman earnestly practices "Excellence in all..." Integrity is likely present with Service as the foundation. I contend that one can possess Integrity, and place Service before self without necessarily being Excellent. Moreover, it is abundantly clear to me that good enough is no longer good enough!

Words alone will not likely produce an Excellent Airman, but they can communicate a common focus, and when consistently demonstrated, maximize trust. Our Airman's Creed inspires camaraderie by capturing who we are or should strive to be: a wingman, leader and warrior. I personally witnessed 591 Airmen swell with pride as they emphatically recited the words "and I will NOT fail!" at a recent Basic Military Training graduation. The unfortunate reality is we sometimes do fail: on PT tests, to meet standards, to be good wingmen, to be Excellent. Therefore we must continuously strive to be better, else our creed and core values become hollow.

Collectively we are the best Air Force in the world. To retain that title, we must focus on deliberate development, innovation, and adherence to established standards. We must also recognize that leadership begins with the individual, who then, when the opportunity presents itself, leads others. Along the way we will get tired. In those moments, lean on one another, practice the tenets of Comprehensive Airman Fitness and live our core values and creed. Focus and application will make the individual better, strengthen the team, and preserve the legacy of those who have gone before us. It won't always be easy, but in periods of uncertainty, just do it! After all, who joined the United States Air Force to be average?