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News > Commentary - Don't aim for average
Don't aim for average

Posted 1/25/2012   Updated 1/25/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Baird A. Stiefel
66th Air Base Group superintendent

1/25/2012 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- As members of the Air Force, we should be committed to a standard of excellence. Our service adopted a new motto in 2010 that exemplifies this -- "Aim High...Fly-Fight-Win."

The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force said, "This motto encompasses what Airmen say about what it means to serve in this great Air Force. 'Aim High...Fly-Fight-Win' gives our service a new and lasting tradition for voicing our pride."

In addition, "Excellence in all we do" is one of our core values. Yet, how many of us have heard or made the following statements:

- All I need to pass my Airman Physical Fitness Test (APFT) is a 75. Anything else is overkill.
- My only goal at PME (Professional Military Education) was DG--done graduated.
- I don't need to earn a Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) degree until I am ready to test for senior master sergeant.
- I want to retire as master sergeant, so I don't need to complete my Air Force Senior NCO Academy (AFSNCOA) distance learning.

Common statements like these shouldn't have a place in our Air Force and highlight a dangerous personal tendency: the one to "aim to get by." I have never deliberately chosen to fail a test or to meet a standard; however, I can attribute the personal and professional shortfalls and test failures in my past to choosing to"get by" instead of aiming for excellence.

"Aiming to get by" can have several unintended results. For example, if your goal is only to pass the AFPT with the minimum score, you could be only one quarter-inch stride, incorrect push up or crunch from failing.

If you shoot for the minimum on a written test, what happens if you miss one question too many? If you only have the minimum training or education requirements for promotion to the next rank, do you think that you are in the top 10 percent of your peers and deserve that promotion? If you don't seize every opportunity to enhance your professional growth, are you really prepared to lead and develop tomorrow's leaders?

If we liken failure to falling into a dangerous river, don't aim to walk the "path of average" that skirts the edge of the waters. A slight misstep could send you spilling into the current and force your peers and chain of command to halt their primary mission and come to your rescue. The readiness and morale of an entire unit suffers when personnel miss the mark. This causes mandatory additional fitness training, referral ratings, decorations downgraded or denied, retraining, loss of promotions, Article 15s or even administrative separations.

Instead, choose the "high" road that is far from danger. Wouldn't you rather walk the path where you will still exceed the standards even if you fall a little short of your personal goal? Encourage others to excel and hold them accountable. "Aim High" so the Air Force can continue to "Fly-Fight-Win."

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