What boxes have you checked?

by Chief Master Sgt. Lewis Holston Jr.
37th Airlift Squadron superintendent

I have heard numerous individuals say, “I checked that box.” Occasionally, this is said after completing a task for a small amount of time. In other words, just enough time to take credit and then leave the follow through for someone else.

Interestingly, when the accomplishment is read on a performance report or an award, the reader is led to believe it was for a sustained amount of time. Box-checking or square filling, in this context, has no place in our Air Force and contradicts our core values.

Box checking contradicts the core value of integrity first. A box-checker relies on who is watching so they can get credit for their actions. What we do when no one is paying attention is more important. There are many Airmen with their hands to the plow who do not have time to look back. They will continue to perform to the best of their abilities and — in most cases — will go above and beyond without caring who gets the credit. They are driven by their commitment to integrity and to the oath they took from the beginning. Those Airmen are focused on selfless service.

Box checking also contradicts the core value of service before self. Service before self is not about serving one’s self. It is about sacrificing for the greater good. There is no sacrifice in box checking, except at the hands of those who have to finish the work that is left behind. Is it really about getting credit? It has been said that it is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.

Selfless service is not about getting credit, it is more about the heart of a servant — looking out for others before ourselves. There is always a need for selfless service. What is not needed are tag-alongs who are involved just enough to write it on paper.

And yes, box checking contradicts the core value of excellence in all we do as well. Good enough for government work is not good enough. How can merely brushing the surface of anything be considered excellence? What about mission execution? What if these same individuals execute our war fighting mission like they execute their box checking? We need people who follow tasks through to completion. The mission will fail if we leave things half done expecting someone else to finish them for us. The Air Force needs every Airman in each specialty to pay attention to the minute details to accomplish a very demanding mission.

What boxes have you checked lately? Did you get that last deployment in just so it could be on your record before the promotion cutoff date? What about that last minute duty title change made to create the impression of progression this year? Were you on a committee only in name? If so, I encourage you to recommit to the core values and finish what you start.