Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Making a Career out of the Air Force

I will begin by telling you that I am an "old head". I came into the USAF during Vietnam and the Cold War.  My plan was to stay four years and then return to Florida to pursue a career in engineering.  But plans don't always work out.  My wife and I soon realized that the Air Force was where we wanted to be.  There was something very special about being around people who put their jobs and the mission ahead of themselves, and we both wanted to remain part of that kind of organization. And that describes quite well the USAF, and you no doubt see this every day.  So 28 years later, I retired from active duty, but never really "left" the Air Force.  You don't leave FAMILY behind, and that is how I still feel about the Air Force.

I can honestly say I would not trade one minute of my active duty service.  Sure, it was tough at times, but important things usually are tough.  The Air Force of today is far different in many ways form the one I joined. But one thing remains the same -- dedicated people doing what needs to be done to defend our nation. Anywhere.  Anytime.

I can assure you all of us who have served understand your dedication and sacrifice.  As a member of the Air Force Association, and currently serving as the Chairman of the Board, we will do all we can to ensure you have the right equipment, facilities, and training to do your job.  And importantly, if you have a family, that they are properly cared for.

Again, thanks for what you do. It is vitally important. And most appreciated!

Chairman of the Board, Air Force Association

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What I Learned...

Without being pretentious I’ll try to share some observations I have made over the years. First a little background. I started my military service in 1955 by joining the Naval Reserve (Seabees). My service was uneventful for the most part and after being discharged in 1963, I continued to work in Oak Ridge, TN at the weapons facility run by Union Carbide for the Atomic Energy Commission. During these “Formative Years” I began to realize my responsibilities as a husband and father. Upon graduation from college I contacted the Air Force and entered Officer Training School at Lackland AFB in Aug., 1964. After various schools and 3 yrs in Japan and a year in Vietnam, I spent 16 more years in the Tennessee Air National Guard. Among other assignments, I was the Commander of the Mobile Aerial Port SQ. So………What did I learn during those years that might be of interest and helpful to you?

TEAMWORK: Learning to work with others is not a “con job”, rather it is a skill that empowers you to lead and accomplish more than could be realized without the convergence of various talents targeting a common goal. Strive to exceed normal expectations, find a mentor, and look for ways to increase your job knowledge that makes you more valuable to the organization. When dealing with others, learn to listen. All good ideas don’t come from the top. Sell your ideas to the team members and, if they have stock in the idea, they will work harder to make it succeed. Acknowledge exceptional performance. It motivates team players to maximize their efforts. One way to stifle initiative is to say: “No, that won’t work, we’ve already tried that!” Simply treat others as you would like to be treated, with respect and the concept that they are working “with” you rather than “for” you. Respect is earned rather than conferred.

EDUCATION: Anytime you can improve your job knowledge through education, seize the opportunity. Education makes you more effective in your job and enhances your chance for advancement and promotion.

LEADERSHIP: Think of someone you respect and are enthusiastic about their goals. It goes hand and hand with respect on and off the job. If you emulate those qualities, others will want to follow your path to excel. I can remember talking to an airman in Vietnam about his ambitions when he returned to the “World”. He said he hated the Air Force, didn’t want of be in Vietnam and that his job was boring. I asked him to think about the job he could get when he got out and what training he had to get a good civilian job. I stressed that the attitude, work habits and performance would be mirrored in his approach to his new job. Once he bought into this scenario, his attitude improved, his performance improved and I’ll bet he went on to be a success in his civilian job.

DISCIPLINE: It took me a while before I learned that I had to discipline myself. Once you learn to take responsibility for your own actions, you are on the right road. Nobody can do it for you, whether it’s your job, your family life, your studies, or your attitude toward your co-workers and boss.

ORGANIZATION: Sir Hillary didn’t end up on Mt. Everest because he decided to go out for a walk. He had a plan! His goal was to climb Mt. Everest but he managed to break that plan down into its elements i.e. supplies, Sherpas, finances, itinerary etc. What is your plan? What are you doing to map out your approach to make the plan become reality? Share your plan with your mentor and test the validity of your thinking. Is it realistic and achievable?

CONFIDENCE: If you will do the things I have mentioned, confidence is the by-product. By following a solid plan there is no reason not to expect success. It’s a building process, the more you succeed, the more confident you are in seeking more difficult and lofty goals.
I can’t think of a better place to gain these elements of success than in today’s Air Force. Where else could you get the opportunities, support and funding to set and reach your dreams. AIM HIGH!

James A. Van Eynde
Lt Col, USAF, Ret.
President, AFA Cook Chapter
Memphis, TN

The Air Force Association, www.afa.org, is a not for profit organization working to educate the public about the critical role of aerospace power in the defense of our nation; advocate aerospace power and a strong national defense; and supports the United States Air Force, the Air Force Family and Aerospace Education.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Advice to New Airmen

Dear Airman, More than 32 years after graduation from the Air Force Academy, I reflect back to see that I’ve applied a few “rules” in my life. I impart this wisdom not because it is fool-proof, but as a suggestion of something that works for me, and may work for you. 1. For the most part I have associated myself with people who do the right thing, regardless of who is (or is not) looking. I trust these people to have sound, predictable judgment, the kind of judgment that I’ve found is good to exercise when performing the mission (like flying an aircraft). 2. I aligned myself with organizations that do the right thing, stand for the right principles, helped me learn and grow, and encouraged me to move up and/or get promoted during my career. I’ve been exposed to some petty/competitive groups that wanted to tear me down in order to promote themselves, and I didn’t stay associated with them for very long. 3. I tried to treat people the way they wanted to be treated. I found that most people want respect for who they are and talents they have. Also, that most good, professional people just want a fair shot at performing in their job or completing a task. As a Squadron Commander I felt it was my duty to remove as many obstacles that I could, and the results were that many of the personnel completed the task so much better than I had expected. 4. I tried to never miss an opportunity to learn, and to teach. As a young copilot in C-130s I got quizzed by the aircraft commander or flight engineer during a long overwater flight. We could have just read a book, but the review of emergency and operational procedures made me better prepared for the next checkride. Later, as an instructor, I applied the same rule and found that in some situations I was teaching without the individual even knowing. And as a Commander I really tried to train my future replacement(s), so that good leadership was perpetuated. I’ve found the Air Force Association to be one of those groups that allow me to experience and practice my 4 rules. As an association of volunteers, I find throughout our organization people who are passionate in their support for the military personnel at the local base, the military family, and the local community. I’ve been mentored and treated with respect. I have attended the last five National Conventions, and I have been thoroughly impressed by how the AFA members have conducted the business of the association in a dedicated, professional manner with only the highest principles displayed. As the Georgia AFA President, I organized and hosted this year’s State Convention and Awards Luncheon. Remembering my experience from previous awards luncheons I wanted each and every recipient to feel welcome, appreciated, and honored. I wanted their hard work to be recognized, and to know that their extra effort was worth it. I think our state organization gave back to the Air Force community in a meaningful way, did the right thing, and treated people the way they wanted to be treated.  

The Air Force Association, www.afa.org, is a not for profit organization working to educate the public about the critical role of aerospace power in the defense of our nation; advocate aerospace power and a strong national defense; and supports the United States Air Force, the Air Force Family and Aerospace Education.