Are you a squared away Airman?

Col. Karl McGregor

Col. Karl McGregor

2/11/2011 -- Remember the Unit Compliance Inspection? LCAP? HSI? NORI?

The great attitudes of 452d Airmen were one of the key ingredients to the success we had during the compliance inspection cycle and Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection in 2010. I credit much of that success to preparation, but attitude played an integral part as well. Throughout a successful Airman's career, it's amazing how the importance of a great attitude becomes a recurring theme.

When I joined the Air Force in 1976 as a cocky and confident young Airman Basic, I didn't realize my career might live or die by my attitude as represented by how I presented myself to my peers and superiors. Since then, I've come to realize life is one giant interview. We are all grading each other and being graded at work, home and even at play. From your boss to your kids, someone is always watching and making judgments about you.

To me, how we approach the interview is the definition of attitude. We can choose to have a positive approach. We need to start conversations and solve problems with the intent of saying "yes we can" while we find a way to a win-win solution. I will caveat this with the understanding that some requests are just not reasonable and deserve a "no" answer, but even so, how we present a "no" answer is extremely important. We should always take the question itself seriously, research solutions, develop alternatives where possible and then share what we know in as positive a conversation as possible.

Solving life's problems is complicated enough without poor attitude stomping out creative solutions. To quote Donald Sutherland as Oddball from the 1970 World War II film, Kelly's Heroes, "Man, you're killin' me with all these negative vibes." Negative attitudes kill communication.

Don't be that person.

Staying positive is an art and it greatly benefits our team. In the military, attitude is often a product of how we present ourselves. For example, what can you gather from this exchange?

A young Airman shuffles through the doorway of a tidy office. A sharply dressed master sergeant reviews a training record.

The sergeant glances up at the clock above him, the Airman is late. He rises from his seat to greet the young Airman standing in the doorway. A new addition to the master sergeant's office, the young Airman leans up against the doorframe. His uniform is rumpled and one of his boots is untied. His youthful face is scruffy and his mullet is tousled.

The squared away master sergeant extends his hand and introduces himself to the new troop. "Sup, Sarge," the Airman says.

The Airman obviously has issues, yet we don't know if he has outstanding job skills, organizational talent or the capacity to lead. We only assume, based on presentation and attitude, the young Airman may not have what it takes. Don't be that Airman; make sure how you look is a reflection of who you are. Make your military bearing, dress and appearance match the great attitude you carry on the inside.

Here's what you want:
The young Airman reports to the master sergeant for duty. He is sharply dressed in his service dress uniform. His ribbons and badges are arranged flawlessly and his low quarter shoes are luminous. His face is clean shaven and his hair is regulation. The master sergeant stands up, smiles and firmly shakes his troop's hand.

Remember that success is not always achieved by the most intelligent or gifted individual; most often, it is achieved by those who carry a positive demeanor on the inside and outside. Our attitude controls our life. It is a secret power and it is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force. Attitude is the key to success or failure in almost all of life's endeavors.

Your attitude--your perspective and outlook--determines your priorities, your actions and your values. Your attitude determines how you interact with other people and how you interact with yourself. Put that positive attitude to work for yourself and for the Air Force.

"Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes." -Charles Prestwich Scott