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A chief's demandments

Posted 12/20/2012   Updated 12/20/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Raymond DeVite
325th Fighter Wing command chief

12/20/2012 - TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- In the coming years, our Airmen will face challenges most Airmen who are currently serving never faced and will need both mentors and supervisors. Our Air Force will face a budget environment nothing like we have seen in decades; yet, they will accomplish the mission at a time when our Air Force will become leaner. The bar has been set; we will remain the mightiest Air Force the world has ever known and the task of ensuring it remains that way rests squarely on your shoulders. The time has come to put away the easy button, roll up our sleeves and get to work!

What I have attempted to do my entire career is to accommodate those beneath me and un-employ those above me. There was a point in my career that I reflect on often to remind me where I came from and the importance of good leadership. I go back in time when I was a staff sergeant where I was cocky enough that I considered myself the resident expert on F-15 Eagle maintenance. From my perspective, decisions were being made that were counter-productive toward flying aircraft. My peers and I would discuss these decisions, and I would think to myself, 'what was my leadership was thinking!' I understand now, that I did not have all the facts that related to the decision, but still felt that leadership should have taken the time to explain the decision to us, or get some buy-in, or a few suggestions from us on how to make the work center better, the unit would probably be better for it. Some call it a buy-in... work towards getting it when you're pitching a plan.

Always remember where you came from and how you got there. One of the episodes in my career that keeps me in check happened when I was stationed at Langley Air Force Base, Va. It was about midnight, the rain was coming down sideways and it was about 30 degrees. I was installing a hydraulic reservoir in the belly of an F-15. The combination of freezing rain and hydraulic fluid had me soaked to the bone. My flight line expeditor pulled up in front of my aircraft and honked his horn and waved for me to come to him. I stopped what I was doing, crawled out from under the aircraft and walked over to him. When I arrived at the expeditor truck, he wound his window down about two inches so he wouldn't get wet and asked me, "How much longer until you're done?" I looked at him and thought to myself, 'you have to be kidding me!' I was dumbfounded that he had stopped my productivity to find out how much longer until I'm done. That day, I changed my thinking.

Since then, I collected a small list of standards over the years that I live by. I call the list "Chief DeVite's 10 Demandments for Airmen."

1. Don't ever, ever, lie!

2. Invest a portion of your income every month without fail.

3. Be in it to win, but everyone can't be good at everything. Know what you're good at and become the best.

4. Be accountable both up and down the chain. I believe in teams; although it can be effective, it's not always necessary to punish the entire team for one person's mistake.

5. As a supervisor, your job is to move big rocks out of the way so your Airmen can get the job done, place your Airmen's needs before your own -- always.

6. Practice "educated complaining." Don't just say "this sucks," be specific and provide recommended solutions.

7. If you have a better way of doing it, speak up.

8. Focus on the facts, the process; be standardization oriented, not hypothetical. Emotion without facts is useless.

9. Continue to educate yourself; always have a book available that you are reading.

10. When opportunity knocks, be fully dressed.

I am very proud to be American by birth and an Airman by choice. However, this is not Chief DeVite's Air Force; this is the Air Force of our young Airmen. Nor will "DeVite's Demandments" solve all the Air Force's issues. If we continue to go down the path of leading with what we know, we would stifle very quickly. That's why it's incumbent on our Airmen to step up and make our Air Force better and stronger. Many Airmen stand in the long blue line watching... always do your best!

1/20/2013 7:26:10 PM ET
Always a winner Chief
Mary Lent, Andrews AFB MD
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