Success is about the journey, not the destination

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Tony S. LeGree
  • 8th Maintenance Squadron first sergeant
As I look back upon my career, there were defining moments that changed my course. Decision points of family or work related interests were approached that best suited my definition of success. 

To me, rank has never been a true indicator of success. Success is a state of mind and often overlooked as something achievable. As trite as this may sound, your attitude determines your altitude. You could be the sharpest knife in the drawer but possess bitterness. Those around you will never fully achieve their potential because of the weight of your burdens. It's not about what you do; it's about how you do it that defines your place. The trick is to know the difference between the two. 

The legacy that you leave behind is characterized by how well you are remembered and revered. Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold was a brilliant military leader, destined to be at the forefront of American Annals. However, during the Revolutionary War, he was influenced and made a decision that changed the course of history. His name is now synonymous with the word "treason" which I'm sure was not his intent. General George Washington was credited with saying that "if it were not for the early contributions of General Arnold, the Continental Army may have lost the war". 

Conversely, General Washington lost many of the battles he commanded. He was out-witted on the battle field but never gave up hope. He commanded with conviction and was highly respected. His resilient Army stayed true to his leadership. His legacy has been defined by his uncompromising character of doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons. He never lost sight of the big picture and scoffed at personal gain. He was truly a man destined to shape a nation and forever change the world. 

As a First Sergeant for the past nine years, I have worked alongside some of the greatest Americans our nation has ever produced. I have seen firsthand the brilliance of many patriots and the commitment that drives them. Deployed to the four corners of the earth, our men and women continue to fight for what they believe in. It certainly is not the money or the long hours; it's the calling that they share. Their sacrifices are forever enshrined as a testimony towards the struggle for excellence. All too frequently, they lose everything in the process. 

I often reflect back to the young Senior Airman that returned home from an eight month deployment as part of a team running convoys in Iraq. The horrific environment he was in cannot be justly described. With his two duffle bags in hand, he knocked on the front door of his base-house to surprise his family. After a few moments, he pulled out his key and was shocked by what he encountered. The contents of his house were gone. Not a single item was left, except a note taped to the refrigerator. His wife said she was "through with military life. The kids needed a father and she was in love with another man". 

The impact of that single event left a profound imprint on many people. Casualties of war are not always those in body bags. The true cost of freedom rings much deeper than most Americans can fathom. Although he was home, his struggles were just beginning and my purpose was coming into focus. 

Over the years, I have finely tuned my priorities; God, family, country. Undoubtedly, God and my family have been the bedrock of strength that kept me going. When my days seemed darkest and the weight of the diamond seemed insurmountable, my beautiful wife Elena would be there to help me talk through it and share a few tears. She has been my confidant and in many ways, being a First Sergeant has strengthened our marriage. 

With the diamond on my sleeve and embedded in my heart, fourteen commanders and more than 4,000 Airmen have crossed my path. It's fair to say I've been around the block once or twice. I've had the opportunity to turn my diamond in several times and roll back to the logistics readiness career field. Each time I have declined to do so. For me it's quite simple. My success has more to do with my journey and not so much the destination. 

As I pin-on Chief Master Sergeant, I am humbled by my journey and thankful for the many experiences that have shaped my career. I am eager to accept the new challenges that await me. 

As a Chief First Sergeant, I share a bond known but to a handful. I can honestly say that I did it my way and I have the best job in the United States Air Force. After all, it's about the people that have shaped my journey ... and what a journey it's been.