First sergeants’ corner: Don’t become spoiled milk

by Master Sgt John D. Carbon
721st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing staff agencies first sergeant

You are the sum of your up-bringing … there is no magic pill! Every experience in life has made you who you are today. In competitions, most of the time, people lose. There is normally only one winner.

This next generation seems to feel entitled to something. I played team sports throughout my life and never got an eighth-place trophy. I would lose all the time, and my dad taught me to shake the hand of the team that beat me and congratulate them for being better than me on that day.

Similarly, everyone feels as though they deserve a five on their enlisted performance report, a quarterly award or a medal. But it must be earned. Teach those who work for you how to earn what they feel entitled to; this can be as easy as showing them respect for their service.

Just as we walk differently around a chief than we walk around an airman 1st class. The trick is to respect all the Airmen who work for you. Find out their story.

Do what you can to train them as your replacement while learning and gaining the respect of your supervision, peers and subordinates. What is your end goal? If you are not making others better, you need to go … your milk has expired! We have all been around expired milk, and yes, it always seems to happen when you’re at your thirstiest. You know the drill, it’s hot; you’ve been working hard all day and the milk carton (potential leadership) is visible. You reach for it in hopes that it will reach for you. You pour it into a glass of hope and BAMM — It’s spoiled!

Everyone joined the same Air Force, and we all had the same type of recruiter and instructors in basic training. We all knew if we messed up, there would be consequences. Please call the baby ugly; we are all tired of self-glorification and inflated stats.

Be direct with people; tell them if you are not happy with a product or production. Tell them to own their product and stand next to them. Show your solidarity with them and your unit. If you are worried about being the bad guy, grow up. Lead by example, be on top of your game, and do not let your milk spoil.

Get out there while showing and teaching what you know. Those who are around you are your replacements. They are the ones that will be filling in when you have turned in your stripes. Get them to the point to where they can do your job better than you. Some “leaders” might think they will lose their job if they give their subordinates the tools to perform better, to be better leaders and make better managers, but the reality is, we just rent our stripes and position … we truly never own our rank. It’s just lent to us for a while until we pass it on to the next Airman after us.