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Spark your potential

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. John VanVorce
  • 755th Air Expeditionary Squadron First Sergeant
So there I was, sitting in the TLS staring at the walls waiting for a flight. The structure has character and history. I had cleared customs, palletized my 72-hr pack, and eaten a fantastic sandwich some caring individual had made and left in the cardboard box. Life is good, so I settle in to wait for my flight. I like to take times like these to turn into myself and look back on the past and remember what choices brought me to wherever I am. Some call it reflection, I call it examination, but to the onlooker it probably looks like the Dirt Shirt is just dazed and confused ... it happens. What matters is not to forget what you have learned because you will need that knowledge and experience to mold our future Air Force leaders. Socrates, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying "the unexamined life is not worth living."

If you look at this on the personal level, you may understand that to remain ignorant of your past lessons, thoughts and behaviors means you may not listen and learn from past experiences. This goes against what the AF Enlisted Force Structure 36-2618 tells us we must do as enlisted NCOs and Senior NCOs. Paragraph 4.1.13 states "Use their own experiences and knowledge to mentor others. Guide and instruct subordinates to ensure they are prepared to accept increased levels of authority and responsibility. Assist subordinates in reaching their full potential."

To teach yourself and others to examine life is to push each other to be more responsible for actions, arrive at better solutions, and to be creative in problem solving. Socrates also told us "Education is kindling of flame not the filling of a vessel." Find that spark that gets each Airman's heart pumping and create opportunities. If you can't find it, create it.

At the leadership level, an unexamined life may create stagnation. To counter this, leaders should take the time to examine others' lives and introduce the spark.

Leaders can create great futures. I believe a great illustration of this is shown in May 1916, back when Brig. Gen. William "Billy" Mitchell was a major and Gen. Henry "Hap" Arnold was a captain. The Air Force's future took an enormous step towards becoming the greatest weapon the world has ever seen. Major Mitchell took time to examine and understand the potential of Captain Arnold and insisted that he report as a supply officer to a flying school at San Diego, Calif. Now, I will tell you that at that time, Captain Arnold had developed a fear of flying due to a near fatal experience in 1912. But, I believe because of his adventurous spirit and Major Mitchell's insightfulness, October 1916, Captain Arnold made a 20-minute flight as a passenger in a Curtiss JN-4 Jenny and found it was awesome. After seven more short co-piloted flights, he conquered his fear and began solo flights again. The spark introduced by a leader had become a blazing inferno.

Within each of your Airmen is untapped potential, and it's your duty to reach in, unwrap it, and set it ablaze. Robert F. Kennedy said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." Use your own experiences and knowledge to mentor others. Leaders take the time to examine others lives and introduce the spark that kindles a flame. One thing is for sure, without daring to achieve, you risk stagnation. Dare to examine, inspire, and create in each level of leadership. Well, that is enough of my inspirational straight forward prose. It's time for me to pack up my bag and get on with my next trip ... maybe I'll try that new hemlock flavored boxed drink I found with the sandwich.