Being a responsible Airman in today's Air Force

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Joseph M. Riff
  • 8th Fighter Wing command chief
As a chief in the Air Force, I have the unique privilege of meeting with thousands of Airmen in my capacity as a command chief master sergeant. I take this opportunity to get to know each of them better, determine where they are in their personal and professional growth, and find out what their goals are. 

One of my main duties as command chief is to mentor, counsel and help Airmen reach their goals. I also take the opportunity to share my philosophy of being a responsible Airman in our great Air Force. 

First, live and breathe the core values. Fortunately for me, my parents taught me core values long before I ever heard them labeled as such. As a child, I learned to always tell the truth, do the right thing and do my very best at whatever project I was given. Twenty-five years of service in the Air Force have reinforced the wisdom of my parents' words. If you truly embody the Air Force's core values of "integrity," "excellence" and "service before self," you will be firmly planted in the right direction. 

I must admit, early in my career I struggled with the value of Service before Self; this is no longer the case. I thought it meant family wasn't important to the Air Force. On the contrary, family is very important to the Air Force, as witnessed by the many programs that have dramatically improved the quality of life for the military family. 

Ultimately, the commitment of all Airmen to the Air Force mission must remain absolute. When we raised our right hand to serve in the military, we promised to do whatever is necessary to protect and defend our nation. 

Wolf Pack warriors are held to higher standards by virtue of serving in the Air Force. Our military leadership, our fellow Airmen and our great nation count on that. Service and commitment are the forces that unite us in the drive to accomplish the mission. Sometimes that means staying after a 12-hour shift to help our co-workers, coming in on a day off to do training, or volunteering for an additional duty because that's what it takes to get the job done and the mission accomplished. 

Secondly, learn your job and become the expert. Aristotle said "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act, but a habit." But from a personal level, there is one statement that hits home to me. I recall it very vividly; my father who once shared with me his idea about being the best at everything you set out to do. He stated, "Amateurs always work until they get it right, but young man, professionals always work until they cannot get it wrong." I submit to you that's what drives me each and every day as I do my part in assisting all of our Wolf Pack leaders in taking care of you -- our Airmen; the most valuable resource in the Air Force. 

Additionally, three important leadership questions I seek from every senior member in the Air Force I come in contact whether I ask you or not:
1) Can I trust you?
2) Are you committed to excellence?
3) Do you genuinely care about Airmen? 

If the answer or response is yes to all three questions, there is nothing, and I mean nothing I would not do for you. 

Every job in the Air Force is important and has value to accomplishing the mission. We need to do it well and do what it takes to become the "professional" expert. Be actively involved in your job orientation and throughout the wing. Ask questions, show enthusiasm, have a positive "can-do" attitude, and become the best you can be. 

Growing up in a small country town, I learned early on that no job is unimportant. Every task, even the most simple or mundane one, was important to ensure we had food on the table. The same is true in the Air Force. The success of our organization, like any other, ultimately rests on the daily accomplishments of its people -- not on its organizational structure, technological advantages or other factors. The Air Force's success is dependent on each individual consistently doing their job in a timely and productive manner while constantly striving to become better each and every day. When we all work together, we guarantee the success of the 8th Fighter Wing. 

Lastly, have fun and smile. I submit to each of you, "You're no good to your Air Force if you don't take care of yourself." It's important to use the leave the Air Force has given us and spend time with family and friends. We all need to take time to rest and recharge our batteries. 

It's a simple formula. Tell the truth, always do the right thing, do what it takes to support the mission to the best of your ability and, finally, have fun. In closing, never forget each and every one of you is the "Hearts and minds of America to all those dedicated men and women who served so faithfully before us."