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The value of lifelong learning

  • Published
  • By Col. Matthew Molineux
  • 6th Operations Group commander
We in the Air Force share an enduring core value of "Excellence in all we do." In order to make ourselves better -- as Airmen, supervisors, leaders, followers, and citizens -- we must commit ourselves to a continuous process of self-improvement, one of "lifelong learning."

There are varying concepts of what lifelong learning really is, but I suggest it is fundamentally a continuous quest for knowledge and experience. This pursuit of excellence through continuous learning can begin for either professional or personal reasons. In the end, I would argue life's education and experiences will always help us in all aspects of our lives.

I challenge each of you to actively seek opportunities to learn in the course of your routine activities. We can go through the day doing only our standard tasks and responsibilities, or we can exploit chances to become better. For example, let me share a personal tactic of mine with respect to flying. I have been a KC-135 pilot for 23 years, so frankly, I know quite a bit about my jet. When I go fly, during those cruise times to the air refueling, when it would be easy to just sit, I often turn to a copilot and say, "Teach me something." Come on. I've got flight gloves older than these guys. Are they really going to teach me anything? You better believe it. Don't discount someone because they might not have as many experiences as you, because I guarantee they have had some different experiences than you. Take advantage of every opportunity!

I meet every new member of the operations group, and one of the primary expectations I set is that we ensure we are first and foremost, technically proficient and ready to provide our skills in support of the warfighter. Next, I expect our Airmen to set both personal and professional goals to strive for during their assignment. If not now, then when? Is there anyone who thinks we'll have more time for these pursuits next month, next year, or even the next assignment?

So, the new year is fast approaching. How about setting a couple personal and professional goals that will be part of your continuous pursuit of excellence? While there are some obvious ones, including academic degrees, professional military education and fitness, there are also professional certificates, technological certifications in a software system or a spiritual milestone. What will work for you?

Americans count on us to provide national security by maintaining superior military forces. We owe our best, and our best can only be attained through the continuous pursuit of excellence. Through "lifelong learning" we not only maximize our social development and active citizenship but also our viability and employability after service.

Albert Einstein once said, "Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death." Makes sense to me. Set some goals, be determined in their pursuit, and we will deliver "Excellence in all we do."