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Focus, professionalism and FINISH STRONG to the end!

  • Published
  • By Master Sergeant Wes Hudgins
  • 466 Air Expeditionary Squadron First Sergeant
Hello fellow enlisted and officer airmen!
I'm Master Sgt. Wes Hudgins. I'm here from hot/sunny Arizona and my home station unit is the Arizona Air National Guard's 161st Air Refueling Wing located in Phoenix, Ariz. Currently I'm the First Sergeant with the 466th Air Expeditionary Squadron on Kandahar Airfield. So let's get right to it.

You arrived at Kandahar and had no idea what to expect. You looked long range and realized it was sizing up to be a long six month or one year deployment. So you finally get to work and focus on doing your part of the mission. The months passed by pretty quick and the next thing you know you are getting the e-mail from your unit's administrative staff informing you that you are ready to begin your redeployment out-processing. The light has officially appeared at the end of the tunnel! So what now? You have two options: keep doing what you're doing until you are officially released or throttle back and take it easy until the Air Force's C-17 Globemaster III for Manas goes wheels up. Unfortunately, way too many folks seem to pick the latter and what I like to call the end of tour coast.

Let's face it. After six months here anybody would be hard pressed to find someone that wants to get home more than you. You're tired of 12+ hour shifts with little time off and want to get back to your life, but the last days just aren't going by fast enough. Your flight out of KAF was just pushed back two days. Combined with all the other stuff that you've encountered since your arrival, the delayed departure just pegged your stress meter. The next thing you know you're getting into a shouting match with your supervisor who's been riding you extra hard the last couple of weeks because he or she says you aren't being productive on the job to the very end. With three weeks to go you're staring down the barrel of a LOR. And more.

Besides the LOR, the hits keep on coming. The same supervisor says your letter of evaluation is being reworked to become something called a referral. You didn't even know there was such a thing as a referral LOE. But sure enough, there's the section on the back of AF Form 77 for such action. Wait, there's more. You thought your decoration was a done deal too, but it has been recalled with discussion about whether it will be downgraded or just cancelled altogether. Then comes the e-mail from your leadership back at home station asking about your return date, but most importantly informing you to be prepared to explain the email just received from your deployed squadron commander regarding your negative actions.

Most of you who just read the last two paragraphs are probably thinking, "Whatever! Won't happen to me." Never say never. We've run into this type of scenario too many times with too many folks. Everyone has to be on their guard against the lure of coasting to the finish for many reasons. First and foremost, we owe it to the mission. The mission has to get done and done right. We're at war and anything less than total commitment from start to finish is an advantage to the enemy. Second, we owe it to the United States Air Force. We know we're better than any other branch of service. We prove it by doing our very best day in and day out regardless of the challenges or obstacles in our way. And finally, we owe it to our Air Force core values. Coasting through the end of our deployment is nothing short of flipping the bird at integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do!

So stay focused folks! Don't get caught up in the end of tour coast and let all the positive experiences, significant teamwork accomplishments and personal achievements of your deployment get erased with one unfortunate lapse in focus and professionalism.

Finish STRONG!