Win today’s game
By Lt. Col. Dale Skinner, 354th Contracting Squadron commander
/ Published March 14, 2012
EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Twenty years ago I had a high school football coach tell me that you can only win the game you are playing right now. You shouldn't be concerned about the state championship at the end of the season; instead worry about doing your very best right now and build on it as the season progresses. Do your job correctly now and the wins, awards, accolades and championships will come.
It's not OK to cheat on one set of bench presses, occasionally skip practice, or lose next Friday's game because you believe it is insignificant to the season or not important in your life's big picture. The rest of the team is counting on you to do your job just as you count on them to do theirs--then and only then does the entire team win.
Several years later, as a new lieutenant, I asked my colonel how to be successful in the Air Force and he told me, "Do your very best at the job you have right now. You shouldn't be concerned about making colonel right now, just do your job and build on it as your career progresses. Do your job and awards and promotions will come."
Your Air Force job, whatever it is, fits into the Air Force mission and it's important or it wouldn't exist. Our country and today's Air Force face budget constraints like never seen in history -- if your job wasn't important it would have been eliminated. The job may be purchasing office supplies, guarding aircraft, pumping gas, plowing snow or leading the acquisition strategy for the F-35 program--whatever it is, do your job, do it correctly and opportunities will follow.
I raised my hand and volunteered to defend our flag and I know you did too. I'm proud to work hard and sacrifice whatever is necessary to support and defend our constitution alongside others like you who have volunteered to do the same. However, the sense of entitlement in our country has gotten out of hand of late and we need to remember that we owe this country and its tax-paying citizens the service we volunteered for. Other squadrons and units count on you to do your job just as you count on them to do theirs--then and only then can we succeed as a team.
From day one, the Air Force begins teaching the core values of integrity, service and excellence. These are not new ideas the Air Force dreamed up when it became a service in 1947. These same concepts are taught all over: ethics, company loyalty, continuous improvement and total quality management exists in successful businesses throughout the world. The idea of honesty, hard work, truth and merit are all ingredients for success no matter what your dream.
Being selected to command a squadron is a great honor. Upon notification, thoughts immediately go to your new squadron winning awards at base, major command and even Air Force levels. How do we beat the squadron that won last year? What can I do to ensure we are the best in the Air Force? I had those same thoughts, but then the words of my coach, my first mentor, came back to me: you can only win the game you are playing in right now. You will not get a chance to participate in an Air Force competition tomorrow if you first can't learn and perform the fundamentals of your job today. If you can't execute your daily duties correctly you will not get an invite to the state championship.
I urge you to remember this--do your job (the one you have been assigned today) to the very best of your ability and new opportunities will consistently become available to you. Don't cheat yourself, your co-workers or your country -- you create your own luck.
I have thought about my old high school football coach often throughout my Air Force career. For a man that never took a course in leadership, never studied military history, never attended one professional military education seminar and never bothered with customs and courtesies, he certainly knew a lot about running an Air Force squadron.
Do your job and win today's game.