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Wax on...Wax off - building Air Force muscle memory

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- No, this is not some obscure reference to upper lip hair practices in the wake of last month's Moustache March Madness, preparations for bikini season, or even a scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Many of you will recognize this as a reference to the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid. On the surface, it is the tale of a fatherless teen that is: dragged to a new town, meets a cute girl, is bullied by her ex-boyfriend and his buddies, learns to defend himself, overcomes all odds to defeat his enemies and, in the end, earns their respect and gets the girl.

It is, in reality, a simple allegory representing our lives and careers. The movie is filled with, what I have come to regard as, "Miyagi Mentoring Moments" - those moments when feelings of frustration and anger yield to understanding.

Like the character in the movie, Daniel LaRusso, who pledged to do what he was told without question; we, as Airmen, swore an oath as we entered military service.

We also worked on our own versions of "wax on, wax off, sand the floor, finish the fence, and paint the house:" memorizing our core values, the Airman's Creed, our customs and courtesies, and our military history; learning how to fall into formation, dress and cover, and then march; having GI parties; and even folding our underwear into six-inch squares.

We all have probably wondered, at one time or another, "What in the world does (fill in the blank) have to do with being a good Airman?"

Mr. Miyagi revealed, with elegant simplicity, that each task developed strength, skill and muscle memory. Each task became part of a solid foundation upon which to build something complete, something whole.

The very same thing occurs throughout our Air Force careers. We memorize the words of our core values and are reminded of them daily - until that moment comes when their true worth is fully realized: beacons that guide our actions and the foundation upon which rock-solid Airmen are raised and developed.

We learn and are challenged to live by the words of the Airman's Creed until it is integral to the very fabric of our being. Folding underwear into six-inch squares, in addition to testing our patience, teaches us how to follow precise instructions, pay attention to detail and wisely manage limited time and resources.

Every task builds our Air Force "muscle memory" and prepares us to be technically, physically, mentally and/or spiritually ready to accomplish the mission.

Within every task is a larger lesson to be learned. With each lesson learned we gain knowledge and experience. Knowledge and experience leads to wisdom. Leaders at every level are charged to impart that wisdom by identifying, mentoring and deliberately developing subordinates into the future leaders of our Air Force.

Whether you are teaching or learning, always seek the opportunities to actively participate in those mentoring moments. Since the students of today inevitably become the leaders and mentors of tomorrow, it is extraordinarily important that we take the greatest care in the guidance and development of those who will eventually guard and guide our future.

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