Never miss an opportunity

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Never miss an opportunity to have a positive impact on someone's life.

In today's Air Force, we find ourselves extremely busy - deploying, fixing , loading, and flying aircraft, processing travel vouchers, making new ID cards, preparing for the next inspection - the list goes on. Even in our busy lives, we must find the time to impart our wealth of knowledge and experiences onto our younger airmen to help shape their futures. We may not realize the impact we make just by spending a few valuable moments with someone looking for direction.

During my first tour as an instructor pilot at the Flight Training Unit, I was able to fly an aircraft to Texas for an airshow static display. During the flight, I began asking questions in hopes of finding out a little bit about each crewmember. I got to know more about our young staff sergeant crew chief and continued to ask what his future plans were in the air force. He said he thought about trying to become a flight engineer, but was happy to stay a crew chief and retire after 20 years in the military.

His response frustrated me and I proceeded to throw my helmet bag back at him, and told him if he had no other ambition in the world than to stay in the same job he was in, he could get off my flight deck and ride in the back of the plane. My intent was not to disparage maintenance or even to praise operators, but to highlight that everyone must continue to strive for more in life otherwise we find ourselves stagnating. Throughout the weekend, we continued to discuss available opportunities and what steps were necessary to go down certain paths.

Five years later, I returned for my second FTU tour, and as usual, during a walkthrough of the squadron, I met the new folks and got reacquainted with others I had not seen for a while. As you spend more time in the service, the names and faces and places sometimes get jumbled. I was greeted by a master sergeant whose name and face looked familiar, but I could not place where we had served together. During our discussion, I admitted I didn't remember where we had flown together, and his reply shocked me. That young crew chief decided he would take a chance and went on to become a flight engineer and was back as an instructor in the FTU. He reminded me of the helmet bag incident and explained it was that event that forced him to look at his future and what he wanted to accomplish.

My actions that day were nothing spectacular. I was merely pushing an individual to continue to work hard and not stagnate. But to that staff sergeant, it was the trigger event that propelled him to a new job and new experiences.

No matter what paths we have taken in our careers, someone else has travelled that same road before us. Search out those that have gone before us, and take the time to share our experiences with those who will follow in our footsteps. And never miss an opportunity to have a positive impact on someone's life.