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Identifying the five enduring areas of performance

  • Published
  • By Col. James Hodges
  • 6th Mission Support Group commander
As a group commander and a colonel in the Air Force, I often have the opportunity to mentor people. Throughout the many mentoring, counseling, feedback and other sessions where I've assessed performance and provided direction for future improvement, five enduring areas of performance have emerged as keys to success. In order of priority, they are superior performance in primary assigned Air Force duties, professional military education, civilian education, base community service, and local community service.

The five performance areas are described by their importance and the amount of time that must be invested in them. It is easiest to portray them as individual slices of one larger pie, as represented in the accompanying graph. The most important area and the largest "piece of the pie" is superior performance in primary assigned duties. The Air Force recruits, trains, and retains Airmen to accomplish very important missions -- to Fly, Fight and Win! Accordingly, all Airmen need to strive to be the best they can be in their jobs. That is what makes our Air Force the best in the world and allows MacDill to boast it hosts the best Air Mobility Wing on the face of the planet! As the Air Force gets leaner, it's more important than ever that Airmen continue to do their best and embody "Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do," in order to accomplish our missions. Furthermore, when individuals consistently show their professionalism and competency while performing their primary duties, not only does the mission get accomplished, but their teammates, supervisors, and subordinates learn to trust and rely on them. Finally, when Airmen perform their duties in a sustained, superior way, they set themselves apart from their peers and get recognized.

The second performance area is professional military education. I often comment that if people are "in to" something, such as a particular sport, they want to learn more about it. For example, I spent time in Alabama last year and was amazed at how much people there knew about the University of Alabama and Auburn sports teams. They knew school history, current players, team game plans and much more. Just as those Alabama residents were "in to" their college sports teams, we need to be "in to" the Air Force culture, heritage, strategy and other issues related to our profession, as this type of knowledge makes Airmen better Air Force leaders and "Air Minded" ambassadors. Completing professional military education programs such as Airman Leadership School, Non-Commissioned Officer Academy, Squadron Officer School, and Air Command and Staff College gets Airmen outside of their normal day-to-day jobs to meet with peers in an academic environment. Finally, completing professional military education helps show they are just the type of motivated, competitive Airman the Air Force is looking for.

The third area is civilian education. The Air Force is looking for bright people with a broad range of knowledge who can solve problems. Our technically oriented force demands people with such skills and abilities. Civilian education helps Airmen sharpen their minds and become better problem solvers. It also helps Airmen strive for self-improvement in ways that can help them achieve their personal goals while also serving their country. Additionally, attending college courses often puts Airmen into contact with interesting people from the local community who can expand the Airmen's professional and social network. Finally, educational achievement is recognized universally as a mark of accomplishment and an indicator of "whole person" attainment.

The fourth area is service to the base in areas outside of normally assigned duties. There are many activities and events base leadership need done throughout the course of a year that do not fall neatly into the purview of any one unit. Therefore, Airmen are needed to join together on teams, committees, or other organizations outside of the normal unit structure to get these activities accomplished. Serving in support of such activities goes against the traditional creed from basic training where young Airmen are sternly told, "Don't volunteer for anything!" In the Air Force, the opposite is true. We NEED Airmen to volunteer, otherwise, these other important activities and events cannot happen. Serving on such teams, committees, or organizations can be very rewarding personally and expand the group of colleagues and friends Airman have around the base. A wise chief once told me the highest performing, "whole person" Airmen do at least one thing to serve at the unit, group and wing levels every year.

The fifth and final area is service to the community outside of the base. There are a great many needs in American society today that require the contribution of private citizens. I firmly believe Airmen are outstanding Americans who have so much they can offer to selflessly support their fellow citizens in addition to their Air Force service.

Whether Airmen mentor young people as Big Brothers or Big Sisters, build homes with Habitat for Humanity, volunteer to feed the homeless, or address another need, there is a cause in the local community that can suit their passions and skills. Such service not only benefits the needy, but also reinforces a habit of selflessness in our Airmen and puts them in contact with members of our local community in a very positive way. Local citizens, whether they are the ones in need or serving the community themselves, will appreciate and recognize the assistance of our Airmen. Airmen who provide their time and talents helping out in the local community endear us with our neighbors outside the base gates.

In conclusion, if Airmen strive for excellence in these five performance areas, Air Force missions and community needs will be better served. Additionally, through performing their primary duties and also getting outside of their normal comfort zone, Airmen will increase their networks of professional and social contacts they can call upon. Finally, Airmen who fully exemplify each of these areas will naturally stand out among their peers, will achieve their professional and personal goals, and will personify the "whole person" concept the Air Force values so greatly.