1st Sergeants’ Corner: What is your legacy?

by Senior Master Sgt. Ray Bradley
86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron first sergeant

A couple of years ago my son was in my living room with a box of cereal. He grabbed the box and started spinning it around. Can you guess what happened next? Of course you can. Cereal went flying everywhere. After, he looked at me in sheer terror. Our conversation went something like this:

“What were you thinking?” I said.

“Dad, the box was closed!”

I could almost hear the fear in his voice and see his smile on the inside.

“Son, just because you closed the top of the box doesn’t mean it won’t fly open,” I said.

“I will eat them off the floor, Dad,” he said.

“Get a spoon, but you don’t get any milk,” I said.

Oh, relax. I didn’t make him eat it off the floor; however, that is my legacy to the world right now, and as you can see I have some work to do. My question is, what is your legacy to the Air Force? Will your legacy be setting tough standards? Will you set your Airmen up for success? I hope you experience some of the same success as I have in my career.

I was a brand new staff sergeant and just graduated from Airman Leadership School. My leadership decided to give me seven Airmen to lead. As I’m sure many of you can identify with, there were a few challenges. One Airman in particular was perplexing.

When he came to me he had a letter of reprimand and an unfavorable information file.
I was eager at the time and gave Jerry his initial feedback. I told him my expectations and how we were going to overcome his history, putting what I learned in ALS right to work.

Jerry surprised everyone. He was doing great things at work. He was picked to train and certify on a new position. He was involved in the community and taking college courses. Wow! ALS really knew what they were talking about. In fact, I walked into my first sergeant’s office with my Superman cape on and said, “Shirt, I want to empty Jerry’s personal information file, because he is doing great things.” That didn’t go over well.

I wasn’t discouraged. Jerry was working his way back from his earlier stumble. Things were going better. He got picked to deploy and was very excited about it (insert ominous music here).

Jerry fell asleep on post while deployed and received an Article 15 for his actions. Wait a second, this isn’t supposed to happen; he was on the road to recovery. I wasn’t prepared for this. What do I do now?

When Jerry returned from his deployment, I did the same thing I did before. I sat him down and gave him feedback. We set another road map to recovery, and I told him this wasn’t going to be easy.

One year later, Jerry was selected for promotion to staff sergeant. A year after that, he replaced me in a resume-hire job when I was selected for assignment to Aviano Air Base, Italy. Today, he is a first sergeant in the Air Force, responsible for taking care of our greatest asset — our Airmen.

As you can see, my son is a work in progress and challenges me every day. However,
Jerry overcame some early career obstacles and is now part of an extremely talented group of men and women.

Are you willing to work with your troubled Airmen? Will you set those tough
standards? Will you push them to excel? If so, they will surprise you. What will be your legacy?