Superior Airmen, professional warriors

by Lt. Col. Matthew Douglas
86th Maintenance Squadron commander

What exactly does it mean to be a superior Airman and professional warrior?
Put these concepts together and you have the total Airman ― an Airman who represents everything we are (and want to be) as a force, an Airman who will join the team to bring a unit to unsurpassed levels of efficiency and performance, and an Airman who is full of pride and achievement.

Superior Airmen live our core values of integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. To that end, superior Airmen are also able to balance their home and work lives as well as their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Finally, superior Airmen show respect for others. Superior Airmen have integrity. They always do the right thing, no matter who’s looking and no matter the consequence. We often hear of Airmen committing offenses or taking shortcuts under the guise of “pressure to perform the mission.” The superior Airman concept eliminates this issue.

Simply, the mission is correctly and safely accomplished every time because it’s the right thing to do.

Superior Airmen practice service before self. They are the first to volunteer for a challenging task, leadership opportunity, deployment or assignment. They are the first to bring aid to those in need. They are the first to develop those around them into better Airmen, professionals and people.

Superior Airmen simply look high and low in the organization, see where they can be relevant and contribute. These things they do with little regard for their own personal standing.

Superior Airmen practice excellence in all they do. We are the world’s best Air Force because of the excellence of Air Force personnel. Simply put, no room exists for mediocrity in today’s (or tomorrow’s) Air Force. Through excellence, superior Airmen guarantee we are and will remain the best.

Superior Airmen are balanced when it comes to work and home life. They understand a stable home life translates into a productive work life. To that end, balanced Airmen are also fit ― physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Finally, superior Airmen are respectful of others, no matter their race, religion, color or gender.

When it comes to respect, no tolerance exists for discrimination or harassment of any kind. Respect creates an environment where professionalism is the norm, diversity is admired and welcomed, and members feel free to contribute their best to the mission and work centers.

Integrity, service, excellence, balance and respect define the superior Airman concept. But a warrior cannot be a superior Airman without also being the best at performing his or her assigned duties and exerting robust leadership in the performance of those duties. Superior Airmen are also professional warriors.

Professional warriors are competent and diligent. Professional warriors perform tasks better and more efficiently than anyone else. They become the best at what they do. Despite being the best, they are diligent at seeking opportunities to improve their technical knowledge and professional skills.

Moreover, they pass on their expertise to those who are less experienced, less qualified and less capable. They mould the future technical experts through hard work and mentorship.

Professional warriors are compliant and safe. Compliance and safety seemingly go hand-in-hand. However, one could argue that a person can be compliant and not safe.

Likewise, a person can be safe and non-compliant. Professional warriors must understand and apply these concepts synergistically. Safety and compliance are not options only to be used when convenient. Safety and compliance are qualifiers to successfully meet mission requirements.

This is how we ensure every mission meets its intended purpose. The professional warrior understands this, exemplifies this and passes it down the line.

Superior Airmen and professional warriors represent the foundation of a compliance culture. They also represent the foundation of an innovative, proactive and regenerative culture.

There is nothing new about these concepts; they are consistently advocated by Airmen across the Air Force.

Ultimately, exceptional mission success will abound when Airmen balance these concepts and optimize their performance in all aspects of their lives.