New Year's resolutions make better Airmen

  • Published
  • By Col. Jon M. Casbon
  • 55th Medical Operations Squadron commander
Did you make a New Year's resolution? According to a FranklinCovey Products survey, the top three New Year's resolutions for 2009 are to (1) get out of debt or save money, (2) lose weight and (3) develop a healthy habit like exercise or healthy eating.
This list got me thinking about how habits and behaviors relate to our roles as leaders and Airmen. For example, debt is a major source of stress. Debt can lead to anxiety symptoms, legal problems and troubled relationships. Any of these factors can affect job performance and ultimately degrade the mission. On the other hand, getting out of debt requires integrity, self-control and responsibility - all traits of effective Airmen and leaders. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that many popular New Year's resolutions go hand in hand with being a better Airman. Take losing weight: part of being an Airman is meeting fitness standards and maintaining a professional appearance. Did you have to get your trousers taken out when the new "Blues Monday" policy went into effect? Are you having trouble passing your fitness test because of those extra pounds you're lugging around? 

How about quitting smoking? Tobacco smokers are more likely to have health problems and lost duty time. A 1998 study estimated smoking costs the Department of Defense $584 million per year in medical care and $346 million in lost productivity. Because of tobacco's toxic effects on the lungs and cardiovascular system, smokers become out of breath more easily than non-smokers; this causes a loss of physical fitness and endurance. Ultimately smoking reduces readiness and mission effectiveness.
What if you're not in debt, don't need to lose weight and don't have any other unhealthy habits? Well, here is a suggestion to help you be a more effective leader and Airman. 

Develop professionally. The better we understand the mission, the better we can carry it out. Professional development is a valuable tool for understanding the mission and how it relates to our jobs. It begins with learning basic job skills and then becoming proficient at them. It includes learning supervisory and management skills. Beyond that is leadership training and professional military education. What can you do to develop professionally in 2009? 

Find a mentor/be a mentor. One definition of a mentor is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher." What can a mentor do for you? Generally, a mentor is someone who can advise you on career options and professional development. A mentor is someone you trust to give you a straight answer, even if the truth hurts. I've had many mentors, and each one has given me the benefit of his or her wisdom and experience to help me advance in my career. How do you find a mentor? Look for someone you look up to and trust -- and then ask them to mentor you! If you've been in long enough to gain some valuable experience, then maybe it's time you become a mentor to someone. 

Be a better wingman. Now more than ever, we need to look out for one another. Airmen deal with many challenges including stressful jobs, frequent moves, unfamiliar environments, family disruptions and even bad weather. Sometimes Airmen respond to these stressors in unhealthy ways, such as alcohol abuse or risky behavior. Some may develop physical symptoms of anxiety such as nervousness, inattention or disturbed sleep. Even worse, some may sink into depression or suicidal thoughts. 

What do you need to do to be a better wingman? Don't look the other way when you have concerns about someone's mood or behavior! Being a better wingman starts with knowing the people you work with and supervise. You're in the best position to recognize a change in behavior and to see how an individual is handling stress. As a wingman, you can provide direct support such as encouragement and assistance, or guide a troubled co-worker toward the appropriate community resource for his or her problem. If you're not sure what to do, use the Offutt Wingman Boldface card. It lists many of the base agencies that provide services for troubled Airmen. If you're worried that someone might be suicidal, don't leave them alone. Stay with them until a supervisor, first sergeant, commander or helping agency can take over their care. 

The bottom line is this: New Year's resolutions are all about self-improvement. Improving yourself will almost always make you a better Airman. Have a great 2009!