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What is your job?

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Shawn Cain
  • 90th Force Support Squadron
If you were to ask a young Airman what his or her job in the Air Force is I am sure you will receive responses such as "I'm a cook, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, finance technician, etc." When I was a young airman 1st class, I answered this question the same way, but with a small amount of humor. My answer was "I'm transportation, a glorified taxi driver." I answered this way until this naïve attitude was corrected, very sternly and passionately, by a senior airman. After this "mentoring" session, I took some advice given and thought long and hard about what my job was.

For a short while I thought it was stated in the Oath of Enlistment. Remember those words "I, state your name, do solemnly swear (or affirm) ..." I think we can somewhat recall the rest. With that I began looking deeper into this oath and how it pertained to my job. I focused on the line "support, defend and to obey." To seek guidance, I did something which was almost unheard of all those years ago, I went to speak directly with the superintendent -- a senior master sergeant. Due to the amount of times I had to sign paperwork, I figured we were almost on a first name basis and what better person to seek advice from then a senior NCO who was getting to know me so very well. As he instructed me to do a right face and march down the hallway, I quickly realized this was not the best idea.

Even though I was a bit discouraged, I still sought answers. I found those who were willing to teach and share their wisdom to help point me down the right path. A few years later, I was introduced to Air Force Instruction 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure, or the "little brown book," as it is commonly referred to. This little book showed where I fit into the Air Force team as well as breaking down responsibilities. Not just general responsibilities within the three tiers but also specific responsibilities by rank. Although there were no pictures, it had about 20 pages and was a tad smaller than the typical AFIs we deal with. I was enthralled by this little book. It encompassed information in much deeper detail than I had imagined. I found what my job was and what many of the orders were that I was responsible to follow. It provided more details on what my leadership expected from me. I became fully aware of what would be expected of me at the next level and this, in my professional opinion, is where we make our money.

Knowing and performing responsibilities above your current pay grade will not only enhance your professional development but will assist your subordinates in the same. If we perform at the next level of responsibility, we must prepare someone to take the wheel in our absence. We must lead and develop subordinates and exercise effective followership. This is how we train and mentor our future leaders for success and, eventually, take our job away from us. During your next conversation with one of your subordinates, ask them if they have heard of this little brown book. If they haven't, hand them a copy. Grasp those familiar and unfamiliar with this instruction, open it and show them what valuable information is trapped within those pages. Guide them through their responsibilities and expect them to perform beyond the minimum. Eventually, we will either separate or retire from this Air Force, and wouldn't it be great if we could sit back, relax and honestly admit to ourselves that we have done everything within our power to ensure that the world's greatest air power remains in the right hands?