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What have you done for your country today?

Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. (AFNS) -- Sitting in my spare bedroom Tuesday morning, I was looking at a career laid out before my eyes. I saw awards dating back to my days as an airman and goodbye gifts from many of my bases.

I started to reflect on the role models I've had and one name stuck out. Chief Master Sgt. Tim Omdal was the security forces manager at Aviano Air Base, Italy, when I was the plans and programs NCO. I learned a great many things about life and the military through the chief and his family. Often, a lesson was initiated by one simple question, "Jim, what have you done for your country today?"

In its context, many might interpret the question as, "What have you done to earn your paycheck today?" Perhaps the question was his way of asking "Summarize what you did in the office" or "Did you give the boss your best effort?"

In my early days with Chief Omdal, that's how I answered the question. I only thought about it as it related to my primary duties. Though I was proud of my response, his expression always seemed as if I was missing something. To this day, I am not sure if it was intentional, but I learned to take a deeper look at the question.

As I grew in my career, I started thinking about my responses and how they related to other aspects of my job. I may have been a pretty good plans NCO, but what kind of supervisor was I? Did I do anything to help mentor a future leader? Did I leave my organization and base a better place? Did I foster esprit-de-corps through a private organization, making new friends and being a better NCO along the way?

Sometimes we get hung so up on our jobs that we forget the bigger picture. Our responsibilities go beyond the task at hand to one of mentorship and leadership. Are we setting the right examples and truly training our replacements? As an NCO or officer, have you gone beyond the role of your primary duty to be a Chief Omdal to someone? Are you listening to his or her response and encouraging them to look beyond the obvious?

I challenge you to ponder this question from another direction. What have you done for your community today? When you think about your country, think about your community. What are you doing to make it a better place?

Why was I sitting in my spare room, looking at memorabilia and thinking about my mentors? After eight bases in 25 years; a career as a security forces member, inspector general and first sergeant, I must face reality and see that time is winding down. As I sat on that lonely chair, the words of Chief Omdal rang in my head, "Jim, what have you done for your country?"

My answer is this: Chief, over a drink I hope to fill you in. I don't believe you will be disappointed in my answer.