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What is your nametag's reputation?

  • Published
  • By Col. Dana James
  • 60th Medical Operations Squadron commander
I have learned "growing up" as an Airman that I have a responsibility to protect the reputation of the nametag I wear next to my heart each and every day--the United States Air Force.

It means that we are part of the greatest military ever known and we have a duty to uphold the high standards and reputation set by those who served before us. In doing so, we also create a reputation of the nametag we wear on the right.

This reputation may be intentionally built or unintentionally obtained, but when people know an Airman's name, have no doubt, a reputation will come to their mind. Some may have never even met that individual, but will likely have an opinion about whether the individual is a hard worker, takes care of their people, has core values and whether they treat people with dignity and respect solely based on his or her reputation.

As a young officer, I didn't have the foresight to proactively build a reputation, but I would challenge you to give it some thought.

I have many people in my life who I respect and look to for advice and, when they speak, their word is as good as gold to me. They have proven their character, shown integrity and have earned my trust.

I imagine those people exist in your life as well. We all need to ask ourselves the question," What does 'my name' and 'my reputation' mean to others?" I am not asking if you are popular and liked, but how do people see you at your core. Before you answer, let's consider three indicators.

1. What do people hear us say? Communication can sometimes be difficult, but we owe honest communication to deliver messages and we always need to do so with dignity and respect. Do we care enough about our people and our mission to give subordinates and leaders good honest feedback or do we take the easy way out and avoid those hard discussions because it's uncomfortable? Do we intend to deliver on what we say or are we just giving lip service? Do we pass on facts or gossip? If we fall short, as no one is perfect, do we take ownership and admit our mistakes and shortfalls? Will we put our name and signature on the line for any cause or do we guard it with caution and ensure it communicates integrity? Once our words, written or spoken, are no longer respected or trusted, it's guaranteed that we will not be either.

2. What do people see us do? Do our actions match our words? Integrity is often defined as what we do when no one is looking and says a lot about who we are. The truth is, most times, people are indeed watching. If we take shortcuts, push our own agendas over the good of the mission or are self-serving, it quickly becomes evident. If we do things that we are hiding from co-workers, friends or family, then we have to question if it's the right thing to do. If it's always about "me," then trust cannot be built. Our actions should speak for themselves when it comes to service before self and excellence in all we do. Doing what is right is not always easy and seeking the best solution for the greater good builds a foundation of trust and gives strength to a strong character. It builds cohesive, successful teams.

3. What don't we say and what don't we do? Are we wingmen or bystanders? Do we have the moral courage to actively participate in making our military better or do we expect others to take that on as we sit silent? Our silence or lack of action speaks volumes about who we are. What in the workplace and in life are we willing to silently tolerate or walk by? Are we OK with someone else carrying our workload? Do we witness and allow negative indicators such as sexism, harassment and racism to creep into the workplace without challenge? Do we walk by a problem without addressing it? Are we willing to step over trash or turn our head to a broken process without fixing it? Do we allow someone on our team to be victimized or disrespected without a voice? If so, we have let down our mission, our team and our nation.

Your answers to these questions well may signify the person that you are and the character and respect that is attached to your name. Signing your name should be a source of pride for what you stand for. I challenge you to cherish and protect it. Once you give away your integrity and your reputation, it may be almost impossible to earn that "good name" back.

More importantly, I challenge you to always remember and protect the integrity and reputation of the nametag we all wear on the left side of our uniform: the United States Air Force. Our success as a nation is counting on it.