To honor Pararescue Chief Ramon Colon-Lopez’s recent selection to the highest enlisted position in the military, we are publishing his 5-part must-read Carnivore Leadership series. Chief “CZ’s” papers can be applied to everyone in and out of the military and will make you a better AFSPECWAR applicant, operator, leader and person. Enjoy the second round: A Three Round Burst (Back to the Basics).
Vol 2. A Three Round Burst (Back to the Basics)
By: CMSgt Ramon Colon-Lopez
Military personnel have begun to lose sight of our honorable identity and what it means to serve. There are many airmen and NCOs under the impression that “orders” are “suggestions”. Some are in the habit of disregarding basic military customs and courtesies, standards of appearance, and respect for authority. Others are looking for the easy way out of their mission by cutting corners. Some have also diluted our main core value of “Integrity First” by not doing the right thing when no one is looking. Continuing down this path will create a mediocre force. Even though these may be the actions of a few, it is a caustic behavior that is dangerously contagious and not conducive to good military order. It is unacceptable and ultimately constitutes failure.
The fix to the issue is fairly simple: Get back to the basics! We need to reflect on the reasons we raised our right hand and recited our oath of enlistment. We need to evaluate ourselves to figure out if serving is truly our purpose. Make the decision to be all-in or all-out.
The carnivore mentality is based on the foundation of the basic principles of military life and our service’s core values. We must live out the words in the oath of enlistment and, most importantly, believe in them. This is not an Air Force of one, but one of a team. The weak link must be either strengthened or discarded.
I now present you a three-round burst of bullets to vector you on the right path. The bullets in this paper are directed at the three tiers of the enlisted force: the first for the Airmen, second for the NCOs, and the third for the SNCOs. I encourage the reader to focus on all three areas equally. They are as important as knowing the duties of your teammates to your left and your right in combat. If your teammate falls, you must pick up their duties and press on with the mission.
Put on your thick skin, get back on track, and take every step to fix your part of the Air Force.
Brace for impact…
A THREE-ROUND BURST
1. First Round: To the Airmen
Our foundation is one of discipline, honor, and standards. With that said, airmen should not get in the habit of slacking and taking shortcuts. These bad habits could turn into an unproductive way of life. Your military image and appearance are of most importance; do not seek waivers in order to be lazy and non-compliant. Always make it a point to look your best upon waking up. Do not spout excuses when you fall short of a standard. Instead, prevent the problem from surfacing and do right every day. With regards to skill set, make the most of each day to become highly proficient on your duties. You are expected to progress in your skills, so expedite the process by being proactive and committed to be the best at what you do.
Be true to yourself. If asked a question, give an honest answer. If you make a mistake, own it, and figure out a way to prevent it from happening again. Do not carry a poor attitude around the workplace. Instead, seek out someone to talk to in order to fix the problem. Also, “interact” instead of “internet”. Get more face time with your peers, supervisors, and leadership. Extend courtesy and respect to everyone. Communication is key to everything we do–get really good at it!
Lastly, if you always strive to exceed the standards, you will always be right. But if you look for excuses to justify your shortcomings, then you will always be wrong. Your short time as an airman will set the tone for the rest of your career. Become excellent early on and help others do the same. Be a trustworthy follower.
2. Second Round: To the NCOs
You are the first line of supervision responsible for the actions of your personnel. You must lead by example at all times in order to expect your subordinates to follow your orders. If your airmen fail, you fail. If they succeed, you succeed.
Supervision must be active. Step out in the field and get to know your people by having face to face talks with them. If you are in the habit of leading by email, now is a good time to change. The airmen need to know who you are, what your standards are, and what you expect from them everyday. Your guidance must be clear, concise, and understood by all. If you have not been providing solid and individual feedback, fix it. Set the bar high and follow through on your subordinate’s progress. Leadership is not easy, that is why Uncle Sam pays you more. If you do not want to lead, we will be more than glad to give him a refund and put you where you belong.
Do not think that you are immune to the standards and regulations because you “have been there, done that”. The rules apply to you now more than ever because the young airmen are looking for an example to follow. Your physical appearance, conduct, and professionalism must be beyond reproach. In addition, senior leaders depend on you more than anyone else to handle work center business because you are the closest to the airmen. Do not put yourself in a position where someone else has to perform your duties. It is your responsibility. Get it right and lead properly.
3. Third Round: To the SNCOs
You own the accountability process and are responsible to keep leaders aware of all issues regarding the enlisted force, as well as the development of our young officers. The NCOs need your guidance, so make yourself available and be approachable. The airmen need top cover in case of a disagreement with their immediate supervisor, so be ready to act objectively and do not let relationships cloud your judgment. Your commanders and officers are relying on you to give them situational awareness on the morale, welfare, and effectiveness of the enlisted force. Get out from behind the desk and always keep eyes on daily operations.
Ensure your NCOs are properly leading the airmen, and hold everyone accountable for their actions. Additionally, guard the integrity of the EPR and decoration systems. The only entitlements we are given are listed on our LES, everything else is earned through hard work and dedication. Firewall 5s are not the norm, but the exception. The process is not broken, we are. Let us be the ones to start cracking eggs in order to make the omelette. Do not wait for someone else to fix our problems. Care for what you are responsible for and what your commander owns. Be a trustworthy leader.
In closing, I expect this three-round burst to hit you square in the chest. A military career is one of service. First, condition your mind and body and develop a servant’s work ethic. Second, spend time taking care of your people. And third, exercise bold leadership every time and continue to make a difference in someone else’s life. Let’s be a shinning example to those up and down the chain. Let our appearance speak for itself, our demeanor reflect positively upon our service, and our technical sharpness care for the mission as briefed and ordered.
Let’s get out there and embrace who we are; military personnel serving this great nation. Let these Silver Bullets be a fresh start to the violators of these principles. To those in compliance, I salute you and let this serve as a reminder to stay on track. Be proud to serve honorably, be a Carnivore–Get back to the basics.