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NEWS | July 17, 2013

Why volunteer?

By Senior Master Sgt. Mark Peters 1st Combat Camera Squadron

When an Airman volunteers to become a first sergeant, one of the questions asked by senior leadership during the interview process is, "Why do you want to be a first sergeant in the United States Air Force?" Without going into too much detail, the foundation of my answer was simple, "Because it's not about me."

In my almost six years as a first sergeant, I've often been asked the same question and the basis of my response hasn't changed because that single principle hasn't changed. Should this response apply just to first sergeants? I don't think so. I know our Airmen are not interviewed or asked if they want to be supervisors when they reach that level in their military careers, but if they were, I would like to think their answer would be very similar to mine.

As first sergeants, our primary focus is maintaining a mission-ready enlisted force, helping people reach their full potential and using the expertise and experiences in our military careers to guide and mentor Airmen along the way. As supervisors, you have the same focus and, although the path in which we each take to get there may be a little different, the underlining purpose is the same. As first sergeants and supervisors, the Air Force has given us all the necessary tools to help each and every member in our unit be successful in their careers. Standards, Air Force Instructions, and various levels of Professional Military Education guide us as supervisors and leaders. Now if you find yourself asking, "Why?" The answer is simple - because we must.

One of my favorite references is AFI 36-2618, the Enlisted Force Structure, commonly known as the "Little Brown Book." When speaking to Airmen across our great Air Force, I often refer to the Little Brown Book and it amazes me how many questions can be answered by reading and then explaining passages from the text. If you've never read the instruction, which is only 23 pages front to back, I would challenge you to do so and apply it to everything you do ... just like our core values. If you've already read it, make it a point to read it again. If you're going to be a truly superior supervisor, you have to be willing to get in the weeds with your people. Get to know them on both a professional and personal level. Understand the things that impact their lives both on and off duty. Be a stakeholder in their career and set them up for success by growing them the right way.

As first sergeants and supervisors, we do these things not because we are told we have to, we do these things because we must. We are investors in our Airmen's careers because that is what the Air Force needs from us; to prepare today's Airmen to take tomorrow's Air Force into the future. If we're ever asked why, the answer should be simple ... "because it's not about us."