Chief's Commentary: Trophy denied

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- In 2008, my son, Aaron, decided he wanted to play soccer.  We signed him up at the local recreation center in North Las Vegas.  We got him fitted with all the nicest apparel.  Of course, the nicer the apparel, the more points you'll score and wins you get, right?

I joined him at his practices and games in the ungodly desert heat.  Before you knew it, the Mustangs were 0 and 8 with three more games to play.  Watching my son was painful.  Surely he was chewing gum, because putting right foot in front of left without falling was extremely difficult.

At last, the season was over.  The coach got all the parents together and arranged a pizza party and awards night.  After the meeting, all the parents collected their children, then Aaron came over to me.  "

What did coach want?" he asked.

I said, "We're going to have pizza on Saturday and you'll get your trophy."

He replied, "Why are we getting trophies? We really stunk Dad!"

I smiled and in my best inner voice, agreed.  Aaron went on to say, "I don't want a trophy."

What an awesome lesson!  A lesson I think you are all familiar with.  But it's a little deeper than that.

Airmen know when they stink, just like Aaron knew his team sucked.  He knew at 7 years old that he didn't deserve that trophy.   And Airmen know when they have been pushed along with unmerited awards, evaluations, decorations or pats on the back--we know!

It's so easy to give our folks the benefit of the doubt and rate them undeservingly higher.  But it can be just as easy to look Airmen in the eyeballs and tell them they performed poorly, didn't give their best effort or simply failed.  They already know.

Don't concern yourself so much with "hurting their career" but replace that with "how are they truly benefitting our Air Force?"  Do you see him or her as a lieutenant colonel, master sergeant or chief?

The Air Force needs field grade officers and senior NCOs that were denied trophies and went on to achieve deserved pats, awards, stratifications and "definite promotes."  Mediocre performers are aware of their standing among their peers just as much as high performing Airmen.

The pizza party was great.  Each young player came up and received their trophy and got to say something.  Most said, "I had fun!  Thank you!"  Until they called Aaron Satchell; he walked to coach with his head facing the ground and received his trophy.  He didn't want to say anything but I yelled, "Com'on Bubba, say something!"

He said "Gosh, we sucked!" Everyone laughed or covered their mouths.

He was right!