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Don't just fill squares ... Make a difference!

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Marty Anderson
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Command Chief
The term, "Filling Squares" has created a negative connotation causing our Airmen to shy away from doing the things expected of all Airmen. I would like to share my perspective regarding the filling squares comment I hear so often.

I have sat on many boards for various types of awards and while reviewing award packages, it was hard to evaluate which member--within their respective AFSC--went above and beyond because each nominee's mission performance was written to show exceptional accomplishment and mission impact. So the only distinguishing factors were education and community involvement. I believe this has created the perception that if you want to be competitive, you must go to school, be involved in the community and mission performance is not all that important.

By unintentionally emphasizing only community involvement and education without regards to duty performance, Airmen focused on only those two aspects. So much so, that they were never performing their primary mission and someone else had to do their work, creating resentment. But yet in some cases, these individuals were getting the awards, recognition and ultimately getting promoted.

First, we need to focus on why we are here--the mission!

We need to ensure all Airmen have a comprehensive understanding of what, how and why their roles and responsibilities are far beyond just following a checklist.

Secondly, explain how the whole person concept provides balance and personal satisfaction in to our lives. Explain the "why" we need to continually pursue all types of education and be involved in our communities.

Education is not just for after the Air Force. The Air Force expects us to complete our education and use this new knowledge to improve the mission. Professional military education develops an understanding of communication skills, leadership and our profession of arms. We are expected to use this knowledge to improve the working environment and culture our Air Force needs, to enhance our values and be successful under any circumstance.

Community involvement is important for a variety of reasons. It shows we care more about others than just ourselves. This is something we demand in all leaders. Also, it is a professional development opportunity.

Example: An NCO accepts the task of organizing a fundraising event. Reflect on all the leadership and management skills that will have to be used to make this event successful. The individual must also be able to have a vision of what a successful event looks like, develop a plan to achieve that goal or vision and work with others to implement the plan in order to achieve the goal. These are the skills we need in our leaders.

Also, it takes courage to accept the responsibility for an important task or project. Again, this characteristic is critical to all leaders.

There is not enough paper to articulate the learning that takes place with organizing a large or significant project--not to mention--the skills gleaned from mistakes, obstacles or challenges that always occur when trying to make it happen. But if an Airman is going to fail, fail here, grow and learn so when challenged again, the member can be successful.

To be effective, our Airmen must balance all of this with family and mission. No one is expected to go to school every night or volunteer every day-off. But out of 365 days, there are plenty of opportunities to grow, develop and make a positive difference.

Bottom line, we never know what situation or tasks our Airmen will be faced with so we need to look for developmental opportunities and experiences our Airmen can draw upon to accomplish any assigned task when that order is given.

In my opinion, this is a critical part in developing resilient Airmen!