There are days that I wonder ‘when will all Airmen internalize the value of volunteering and getting their CCAF.’  The issue seems the same at each base (and those hater Facebook/twitter feeds) and WE need to fix it together.  What I see more often than not, is that MANAGERS are not explaining WHY decisions are made or WHY things are important from the mission to why these things matter.  That is on each and everyone of us to fix this “do it because I said” mentality.  Telling an Airman to do it because “I said” is chicken management.  There will be times when we all need to just check the rank and do as we are told, however that is the exception.  After 23 years I do not think there are more than 10 or 15 times that an order could not have been explained at least a little bit and the majority were pretty damn clear why (life/limb/catastrophic disaster).  So how do we grow leaders who can take the time and explain WHY tasks need to get done, well folks believe it or not it’s through that dreaded volunteer work and CCAF.

I’m going to say something now that I’ve told my Airmen to not quote me on many times without giving a full explanation, are you ready…I don’t care if you get a CCAF or volunteer.  Wait, what the hell did you just read?  That is right, I do not care.  It does not affect my life, it will not ruin my week and honestly it just shows me how much you care about growing as a human.  If all you want to do is be a team member and meet standards, we are GOOD.  Just expect a rating of “Met” on your EPR and you should never see MSgt.  This is business, not personal.  HOWEVER, you are limiting yourself and your Airmen and that is where you get my interest and involvement.  So why does the Air Force (or any organization across the civilian and government sector) need you to get that silly Associates Degree and work in the community?

First let’s be clear, it’s not the CCAF the AF needs you to get.  It’s continued education that we really desire.  We need each Airman to be dedicated to their continued mental development.  Enlisted Airmen join the Air Force only needing a high school diploma, officers need a bachelor’s degree.  That’s the starting point for a successful path of growing as a leader.  By going back to school, you are going to learn to write, research, and communicate DIFFERENTLY than we are going to teach you in the AF and that is a great thing.  It will also teach you how to present and defend an idea that is yours.  This is what that education gives you and since the AF is giving you a FREE path through the CCAF, why not use it?  Would you rather burn your own money?  You don’t like free things?  Seriously, why not?  I promise next year will be busier so the best time is NOW.  The continued education process gives you different teachers and peers that you need to persuade with your thoughts that you developed.  This is what the Air Force gets from you getting that CCAF; CRITICAL THINKING and COMMUNICATION skills.

Think about a child, any adult can drag them by their little arm and put their tail in a chair.  However, the person who connects with that child can talk them into WHY they want to be in that chair.  Whatever means they use, they are leading that child to do what they want and stand a better chance of that kid keeping their tail in that chair.  But we must be smarter than that child or we must convince them that our plan was best.  No parent stays effective by just stomping their feet and saying “do it because I said.”  That way of managing a kid will only last so long and corporal punishment will always bite back…ALWAYS.  How do you plan on leading your Airmen by just pointing and saying to do it?  If it will not work for a 5-year-old how is it going to work on a 25-year-old adult?  When you leave will they still do it even if they fear your stripes?  Do they talk about what a poor leader you are just because you always bark and yell?  The first day you are not there to bark and yell, it will go back to their way because you did not convince them WHY to do something or WHY it mattered.  This is where that CRITICAL THINKING and COMMUNICATION come to its real impact and purpose from that continued education and CCAF.

Now that you have this education why not try it somewhere else before you test out your “Jedi Mind Trick” skills on our workforce…well I got a solution for you on that!  Find something that stirs your SOUL and go volunteer there.  Don’t go to where everyone is going, go do something that makes you happy to be there.  If you are going to give ~10 hours a month, it better be worth it to you personally.  If it’s Habitat for Humanity or March of Dimes or a shelter or your base 5/6, just go.  Now that you are stuck in the first meeting look at those folks who are out front, they are telling you what to do and they have no power over you, yet you are going to do what they need done.  How did that happen?

I will grant you that you will do it partially out of self-desire since you wanted to be there but a good deal of it comes from them COMMUNICATING to you what needs to be done, why it needs to be done and how to get it done.  They know these things because of CRITICAL THINKING skills they have gained through either experience and/or education.  Good grief this all might connect.  Now think about yourself as a junior Airman, isn’t that how you want to be talked to about WHY something matters and how WE are going to get it done or did you just want to see a growling NCO/SNCO saying “do it or else?”  I know I don’t accept “do it because I said” very well, why would our Airman?  When volunteering, see if your peers or your subordinates want to go with you.  Motivate them with WHY this matters to YOU, tell them the great stories or how it makes you feel… I think we call that COMMUNICATION and CRITICAL THINKING that you gained with that continued education from that FREE CCAF!  No way it all connects!

This is the real benefit of the CCAF and volunteerism.  We gain leaders who are able to hear their Commander’s vision, review their piece of the mission and then critically think about how they can achieve that goal.  Then the leader will pass that to their subordinates and so forth.  The day will come when you don’t go to work because of an emergency or leave or something, when you get back if you truly led your Airmen the mission will not miss a beat.  Things will keep going, your Airmen will show off what they did to you, and the Commander will see how your team is ready for the next challenge.  That will then, without overselling, be seen on evaluations and promotions for your Airmen and you.  So go educate yourself, learn how to lead without those stripes and build a better force.

Best of luck out there LEADERS!

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