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Providing shade

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kevin Akers
  • 90th Operations Support Squadron first sergeant
In 2012, I had a long talk with my father about my future in the Air Force and of my challenges with stepping into the world of being a first sergeant.

At the end of our conversation, he signed off with a Greek proverb, "A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in."

I chuckled with a bit of ignorance and immaturity and no real true sense of what he was trying to get across.

In the past two and a half years I have grown to understand what it was he was trying to tell me. It boiled down to the word selflessness, which means to think less about yourself and more about others. This is a task that can be hard for some people because aspirations and competitiveness can cloud ones ability to care for others over their own needs.

The key is to find the balance of taking care of your needs while putting the needs of others ahead at the same time.

Every day we are in the presence of selfless leaders, whether it is a supervisor sitting with an Airman to go over a budget or a friend who notices you not being yourself and has the courage to ask what is wrong. They make investments in our Airmen and our programs, which will never benefit the leader personally but is essential to our growth and our continued reign as the greatest Air Force in the world.

When we develop and cultivate a selfless climate in our units, productivity will soar.

This philosophy is nothing new. This is truly about service before self, a core value that we all know as putting professional duties over personal gain.

How can we harness the power of this valuable tenant of our core values? There is not one simple answer that will give you the inside track to success on this core value. This is only one aspect of how we may measure our own success to begin with. However, there are many things we can do to influence the next generation.

Be a positive influence and treat others how you want them to treat you. We are all on the same team, and anyone who says, "There is no 'I' in team," is only referring to the spelling, because each person needs to do his or her part so the team succeeds.

Earn the respect of your subordinates, peers and leaders. Be a self-starter and don't let adversity get the best of you. Break down communication barriers and provide candid feedback. Every Airman deserves to hear how they can improve. Allow some mistakes and take the opportunity to teach when they make a mistake. Be steadfast in who you are as a wingman, leader and warrior and have the courage to stand up for what is right for our Airmen and the Air Force.

This past year was filled with many changes in the nuclear enterprise, changes that resonate to the core of enlisted and officer functional areas alike. Our success may not be visible or provide a tangible result today; however, our selfless leadership will propel our Air Force into the next generation, where our Airmen will soon be the old men and women who are planting trees for another generation to enjoy the shade.