Do What You Can Afford To Do

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Ryan Rowe
  • 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
"Do what you can afford to do." My first flight chief, a seasoned 24-year veteran senior master sergeant, passed these words on to me almost 19 years ago. A phrase that is simple in its communication, but very deep in its meaning. I have taken this phrase and embraced it as my personal mantra. When I was on a remote assignment with the Wolf Pack at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, this was on my name placard outside my door in the dorms. It was a very good reminder for me at the "last warrior base" where "work hard, play hard" was the order of the day.

Of course, this phrase means much more than spending money. It covers all aspects of life. Our lives are filled with competing priorities. What can you afford to do? More importantly, what can you NOT afford to do? Do you go to the gym, or do you stay late and empty your inbox? Do you go to your son's final soccer game or do you review and sign those 14 Enlisted Performance Reports sitting in your inbox that your boss keeps harping on you about? Many times there are no right or wrong answers, it is about "what can you afford to do" at that place and time.

As I wrap up my fourth squadron command tour, I have seen many Airmen who have done what they can afford to do, and unfortunately, some who have done what they cannot afford to do. During this tour at Offutt, I've had the pleasure of seeing two of my Airmen selected to attend the U.S. Air Force Academy. This is the first time I've seen this happen. They set their goals high, took intentional and positive steps to achieve those goals, and made them happen. To quote Teddy Roosevelt, "Bully for them!"

I have had the pleasure of seeing dozens of my Airmen selected for below-the-zone promotion, quarterly and annual awards at the group and wing level. I've seen them come together as a team and execute beautifully during the Combined Unit Inspection and Logistics Compliance Assessment Program visit, earning "Excellent" ratings for both, and achieving the "best seen to date" nod from the LCAP Team chief. All this happened because they chose to do what they could afford to do, set their goals high and strived hard to achieve those goals.

I have also seen too many Airmen do what they could not afford to do. Can you afford the stigma and $15,000 price tag that comes with a driving under the influence arrest (counting court costs, lost time, higher insurance rates, etc.)? Can you afford to not properly prepare for your physical fitness test, knowing that if you do not pass, it could lead to a referral Enlisted Performance Report, denial of decoration, making you vulnerable for date of separation roll back or a retention board? Can you afford to not take that extra time to really get to know the Airmen who work for you? To know what matters to them and what their concerns are?

Can you afford to do the things that will make positive impacts in your life and the lives of others? Can you afford to get up an hour early to take care of those EPRs so that you can go to your son's soccer game that afternoon? Can you afford to sacrifice some of your "me time" to volunteer as a big brother/big sister or Cub Scout den leader to make positive impacts on young people's lives? Can you afford to do those "hard jobs" and volunteer activities that would make you more competitive for promotion and nominations for BTZ or an appointment to the Air Force Academy?

Our lives are busier than ever, and filled with competing priorities. So, are you doing what you can afford to do?