Thursday, March 1, 2007

COMMENTARY>> Keeping a positive attitude in changing times

By Chief Master Sgt. Steve Arnold
189th Airlift Wing command chief master sergeant

I recently had a young Airman ask me how he could continue to maintain a positive outlook regarding his career with all of the personnel and budget cuts that are taking place in the Air Force. It’s a fair question. Change usually brings about a degree of uncertainty in our lives, and if we’re not careful, it is easy to allow uncertainty to have a negative impact on our attitude.

My response to his question might best be summed up in the words of an ancient prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Things such as cuts in manpower, training and funding for new weapons systems are decisions that are largely out of my control.
As Airmen, NCOs, or even officers who operate at the wing or squadron level, it is not likely that most of us will have any direct impact on those kinds of decisions. We would do well to place such matters within the category of “things I cannot change,” and press on.

There are, however, a number of things over which I have a good deal of control during changing times. The first is attitude itself. Over the years, I have come to realize that there are basically two kinds of people when it comes to attitude: those who control their attitude, and those who allow their attitude to control them.

In other words, there are some people who tend to allow their feelings, circumstances and people around them to dictate their whole approach to life. Other people seem to rise above such things, and simply choose to engage the circumstances of life with a sense of purpose, determination and optimism. Learning to manage my attitude will go a long way in enabling me to deal effectively with decisions and policy changes have the potential to adversely affect my career.

So how should we respond when faced with the realities of job cuts, loss of benefits, or reduced promotion opportunities? Allow me make a few practical suggestions:
Become a member of a professional organization that will promote your interests and concerns. Guard organizations such as EANGUS (Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the US), NGAUS (National Guard Association of the US), and AFSA (Air Force Sergeants Association) all work to promote and protect our interests and benefits.

In times of uncertainty and change it is vitally important that policy makers are made aware of our concerns. These and similar organizations provide the best avenue for you and me to ensure that our voice is heard. Prepare for change. Change is not always a bad thing. Along with change you may find some unexpected opportunities. If you are prepared in advance, you will have a “leg up” on your peers to take advantage of those opportunities when the time comes.

Make education a priority. Enroll in a professional military education course. If not, make sure you complete the non-residence version. Far too many Guardsmen have missed an opportunity for promotion simply because they failed to complete their PME in a timely manner. Make sure that you have met all the requirements necessary for promotion, even when the opportunity for promotion seems unlikely. You never know when the situation will change.

Be flexible. When circumstances change, we need to be willing to change as well. Once decisions are made at senior leader levels, it does little good to try to “buck the system.” Seek to embrace new missions, and be willing to let go of the old ones.
If your old job is being eliminated, look for opportunities to cross-train into a new career field. You might discover that you enjoy the new job as much or more than the old one. On a final note, I just can’t resist letting all of you know that I recently became a grandfather for the first time (photos available upon request!)

The fact is, though, that this event once again served to remind me of the real reason we do what we do in the military. It really isn’t so much about you and me personally as it is about passing on to a future generation the great opportunities of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The stated goal and purpose of our enemies is to rid the world of these ideals. Our job is to ensure that they never succeed in their efforts. Each one of you plays a vital role in that process, and I thank you for your service.


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