Remembering why our job is important: People

Chief Master Sgt. Jacob P.E. Dunbar

Chief Master Sgt. Jacob P.E. Dunbar

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- Stress, unhappiness, life situations and world events can weaken a leader’s motivation and make it hard to their jobs. We question why we still do what we do. As we contemplate which direction to go, the answers sometimes comes to us in subtle ways. Assurance often comes when we least expect it.

People remind us why what we do is important; likewise, they give us a reason to keep going.

Several years ago, after returning from a difficult tour in Iraq, I was home only three months when I was notified that I had to return in less than a month. I was a little unhappy with the selection process. Nevertheless, I was more concerned how my family would react to the news.

So, when I came home and told my wife, her response caught me by surprise. She asked, "Are you sending troops?”

I said yes.

Then she said: "Baby, you need to go. We will miss you, but they need you more."

Nothing could have been more reassuring. Those words gave me the confidence to go and do my job.

A second situation reminds me of why a leader’s job is important. When I was much younger, I supervised a section of 45 people, where over 90 percent of them were inexperienced. I spent most of the work days and weekends training Airmen and at the job sites repairing HVAC systems. Any paperwork had to be done before everyone came to work and after they departed.

At the end of those 16-hour-plus days I was exhausted. Even though the job was fun, it was also very difficult. At times, I wanted to give up. One morning changed how I viewed my job. I arrived at work at 4:30 a.m., and I noticed the lights were on in the building. That was strange because I was usually the first to show up. When I got to the office my hardest working Airman was already there.

I noticed right away that something was wrong; he was very sad. He told me he was going through some troubling personal problems and at the point where he considered taking his life.

Before I could utter a word, he said: "Sarge, I couldn't do it. I couldn't kill myself. I didn't want to disappoint you. You are the only one believed in me."

I was speechless. I couldn't imagine I had so much impact on someone's life. His words were humbling; they made me forget about my own issues, and now they remain a source of motivation to me.

We all have difficult times. We all ponder the idea of giving up at one point, but we have to realize that it is not always about us; it is about the folks who believe in and depend on us. Leadership is always important and in demand. People are depending on us to show up and do our jobs, even when we are enduring tough times.

Whether it is our spouses providing reassurance, children emulating us, coworkers asking for advice or a perfect stranger saying ‘thanks,’ the message is the same: keep doing what you are doing; we appreciate it.

For me, that is motivation enough.