I was eating dinner at the DFAC tonight, and got to expounding on my observations for a successful career in the Air Force. They thought it was pretty funny, so I figure I'll put it here (I am retiring from the Air Force Reserves shortly after I get back from this deployment). Become a Complete Fool
First and foremost, unless you are a pilot, the highest you will go in rank will be Lt. Colonel. True, some non-flyers make Colonel and general officer grades, but the percentage is very low. Even if you are a pilot, the percentages are against you making 0-6 or above. Second, unless you really screw up or have some sort of career-killer assignment, you will probably make Lt. Colonel. Remember this always.
Don't waste time brown nosing. It's degrading, takes a load of time, and makes you universally despised. Remember, the highest rank you will get is Lt. Colonel. The lowest rank you will get is Lt. Colonel. Brown nosing won't make a difference.
Avoid at all costs becoming an executive officer to a general. It's a load of wasted hours as an overpaid secretary. You would do better with a more conventional assignment and working those extra hours at Mc Donalds to make more money. Remember, the highest you will go...
Don't hang out at the office looking busy after hours when you don't really have anything to do. Even if your peers do it. Your time would be better spent going home with your family. There will be a lot of separations from them, spend what time with them that you can. Remember, the highest rank you will get...
Learn Microsoft Access, Excel and Word. Don't learn Power Point. Access and Excel are excellent tools for management, project tracking, and analysis. Word is great for reports. If you get to be a Power Point Ranger, not only will I personally hate you, you will end up getting sucked into preparing briefings endlessly when you could do something more interesting and useful. Oh, did I mention how much I hate it when some 2nd Lt. prepares Power Point slides with all sorts of fancy graphics? Power Point presentations are useless and painful. Fancy Power Point presentations won't help you, the most rank you will make is Lt. Colonel.
When I was a Lieutenant, an instructor at the Civil Engineer school at Wright Patterson AFB said we should always volunteer for the hard assignments. Bull. If you volunteer for a difficult assignment, you will find it's difficult because the chances of screwing it up are greater than average. If you screw it up (which you probably will), you will look really stupid. It probably won't hurt your chances of promotion, but even if you accomplish the difficult assignment, it won't really help. Only volunteer for assignments that you want to do.
In the military, there are a lot of jerks. People may disagree with me here, and will say civilian life has lots of jerks. Well, in the military jerks can push people around a lot more and they do. Forget about the military comedies like MASH where the hero officers constantly harrass the higher ranking jerks. It doesn't happen. I only worked for one jerk (when I was enlisted in the Army) that was dumb enough for us to torment. Most jerks have learned how to position themselves so they can push subordinates around with impunity. So, you will probably work for quite a few jerks.
However, in all my years in the military, I've only seen two jerks try to screw their subordinates with a bad OPR. One was a battalion commander I had in the Army - my company commander had to retire a Major because of him. However, my CO was also prior enlisted, and probably would have punched out as a Major anyway. The other was a commander I had in the Air Guard, he wrote me an OPR that would embarrass an E-4. He didn't bother mentioning how I had improved the base infrastructure, got hundreds of thousands of dollars in projects programmed, or any stuff like that. He just wrote I did design work that was good. I was really angry, but I still made Lt. Colonel. So, remember, the jerk just likes to push you around. He or she probably doesn't want to attract undue attention from higher ups by actually screwing his or her subordinates' carreers. Remember that at every butt chewing you get during those assignments. You still will make Lt. Colonel.
Avoid meetings. They are a total waste of time. I remember in Air Command and Staff College (by correspondence) that meetings were stressed as important management tools. No they aren't. They are at best, just a nuisance. If you have too many meetings on your schedule, try skipping one or two. If nobody notices, drop that meeting off your schedule. Don't waste your subordinates time in meetings. You will get more out of them in one on one conversations anyway. Announcements that need to go out to everyone can be done by e-mail.
Get out of the office. Go see what your people are doing. If they are doing a difficult job outside in bad weather, go outside with them. Talk to your people about what they do. Compliment them when they do good.
Don't micromanage. NCO's are there for a reason; give them the authority to get the job done.
Understand that not everybody that works for you will do a good job. There is only so much you can do about non-performers. Forget the counseling classes you had in the Academy/OTS/ROTC/AMS - if someone is a total loser, no amount of counseling will work. It's hard to fire federal employees, and you can't always get rid of non-performing airmen. Sometimes you have no choice but to work around them.
If you can avoid "extra duties" avoid them. All of the ones I've been acquainted with are meaningless and stupid. Do you really want to be your unit's Officer Club rep? No, you don't. Spend time learning your job instead. Don't be like one young officer that worked for me in a deployed environment that was a protocol officer. He knew how to escort visiting dignitaries' wives to the BX, but couldn't do anything in his job of Civil Engineering. In the deployed location we didn't have to many congressmen's wives needing a BX trip, but we had a lot of Civil Engineering that he couldn't do.
Never ever, ever lose your temper. OK, you will anyway, but try not to. I've never ever lost my temper when I didn't regret it afterwards.
Don't badmouth your superiors to the people in your command. That's easier said than done, some people you will work for are going to be total idiots. So, you probably will badmouth them when you shouldn't. Try to avoid it, and remember, you won't burst by not saying what you think of an idiot commander.
Whenever you screw up, and you will, don't give up. Strike it off as a mistake, and resolve to try to avoid doing it again. For example, if you get mad at your commander, and badmouth him in front of some airmen, that's not good. Don't beat yourself up mercilessly about it, just try not to repeat the mistake.
Finally (at last), know when it is the end. Don't hang on until they throw you out. There is a life after the military; unfortunately some never realize that.
Oh, that wasn't totally final. Do your job the best you can do it. Don't expect or ask for praise, be satisfied that you are putting out the best effort you can. It makes it much easier to live with yourself.
That's my thoughts for what it is worth.
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I was eating dinner at the DFAC tonight, and got to expounding on my observations for a successful career in the Air Force. They thought it was pretty funny, so I figure I'll put it here (I am retiring from the Air Force Reserves shortly after I get back from this deployment).
Become a Complete Fool