By Lt. Col. Michael Dunkin, 245th ATCS
/ Published July 25, 2012
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, South Carolina -- People like hot fries. It's a very simple statement with a lot of truth and motivation behind it.
I recently attended an NCO Academy graduation where the guest speaker was the fifth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Chief Master Sgt. Robert Gaylor. As part of his speech, he told the story of visiting a hamburger stand in southern Texas where the owner filled a "to go" order and handed it off to an 11-year-old boy. The young boy ran as fast as he could with the bag of burgers and fries. When the boy returned, the chief noticed he ran all the way back and immediately asked the owner if there was another order. The chief asked if he always ran when he delivered orders. When the boy re6sponded "always," he asked why. The boy's response was quick and very telling. "People like hot fries."
The message is simple. It is our responsibility to deliver the best we can every day with every task. It is one of our core values: "excellence in all we do." In a nation battling to make budget cuts (where "couponing" is the latest craze), we must have the same level of consciousness when it comes to carrying out our business day in and day out.
The Guard has a long history of providing combat power at a reduced cost. Today, for about seven percent of the budget, the Guard provides more than 30 percent of the capability. While these numbers are astounding, the American public will continue to demand more. To meet this demand we must be prepared to not only work harder in some cases but to look for ways to work smarter.
Like an 11-year-old boy delivering fries, we have to make the most of every job. It is easy to become complacent in our work and assume that if we do it the same way we have always done it then the results will be fine. Warm fries could be fine, but hot fries are better. You never know when the other squadron or wing like us has found a way to keep the fries hot, and they might be the one to get that extra mission or funding because they do it better.
While delivering the hot fries is part of our responsibility, demanding hot fries is another. Mediocrity is not something that just happens; it is something that is accepted over time. As supervisors and leaders, we must instill in the young Airmen the importance of exceeding the expectations of those we serve.
This was the message from Chief Gaylor to the graduates. As leaders, we are expected to make improvements in the people we lead. The better the Airmen are who work for us, the better job we have done. The only way to make people better is to give them the tools, train them how and then provide them with the feedback necessary to adjust.
While the tools and training part is easy in most cases, the feedback piece can be difficult. Telling someone they have made a mistake or are not meeting expectations is not fun, but it is essential. Otherwise, we as leaders are not meeting expectations.
Likewise, we have a responsibility to reward and recognize those who do things well. How many decorations have been processed by your organization in the last year? If we do not reinforce the behavior we want to see, we leave our people to guess what the right answer is.
As the chief said, "The person getting those fries gives the extra tip and calls the same hamburger stand to get hot fries the next time."
We now stand 14 months out from another ORI. As we begin to prepare, let's keep in mind that we cannot expect to go through the motions for a year and then just turn it on when the IG shows up. We have to strive to demand and deliver our best each drill, each AT day, each exercise. We have to bring hot fries!