Can I Count on You…to Fix My Collar?

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- During our recent Wingman Day, my commander started the morning by presenting coins for excellence to our recent award winners. I noticed one of our noncommissioned officers had their fleece collar turned up in true "Elvis" fashion. Intentional? I don't think so...not in my organization.

In any case, I took the opportunity to stop the individual and turn their collar down. Was it embarrassing? Maybe at the time for the individual, but we should all hope that someone will take the time to fix our collars when we need it.

Over the course of my career, I too have been corrected by my supervisors and peers.

When I visit Airman Leadership Schools, I always like to tell the story about Senior Airman Jason E. Dugan, a co-worker that mentored me at my first assignment in 1985. I was not heading in the right direction and he provided the needed course correction so that I could be successful in my military career. The guidance was simple, "Always do your best, and the rest will take care of itself."

My parents probably gave me similar guidance, but this time it hit home. Airman Dugan saw potential in me that I did not, and I was not meeting my potential. Never underestimate your ability to positively affect another individual, no matter your rank.

Neither of us knew that I would have a "career" in the military, but his influence ensured that I had the right vector to be successful if I chose to be. It was life-changing mentorship, wingman concept, and an emphasis on excellence before they became institutional buzzwords.

As I progressed in rank, and especially now as a command chief master sergeant, the corrections have been less frequent. Partly, I suppose, because I am a little more squared away. I wonder though if it is also partly because I am part of the senior leadership here at my base?

I have caught my own collar out of place and wondered how long it had been that way before I noticed it. My commander has a couple of recurring themes that send a powerful message: "I check my slack at the door" and "I don't pass by a problem."

In our organization, we expect all members of the unit to speak up if something is not right. If we see something out of place, whether it be a piece of trash on the ground or an upturned collar, we correct it. We don't pass by a problem. Not to embarrass or ridicule, but to demonstrate excellence and be a good wingman. This is "my" base and I want it to reflect excellence.

We all rely on each other to take care of our part of the mission. Everyone is important and no "one" is more important than another. If I slip up, it's good to I know I can count on a wingman to "fix my collar."

I know that my wingman has my back whether it be in combat or heading to a staff meeting. This is what makes the military unique and is the reason I serve. Please continue to check your slack at the door and don't pass by a problem...take care of your teammates and fix their collars.