Tops in Blue

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Gary Gualano
  • Air Force Financial Services Center
A number of thoughts may cross an Airman's mind as their eyes pass over the title of this commentary.

I suppose the most common of these thoughts is one about the Air Force's outstanding troupe of entertainers who comprise Tops in Blue.

Airmen who have been associated with the Air Force for a while have likely had an opportunity to attend one of their shows, such as the one most recently performed in Rapid City, S.D.

When I think about the incredible collection of fellow Airmen in Tops in Blue, their excellence in all ways -- including both technical and professional expertise -- immediately jumps to mind.

They've represented Airmen in a broad spectrum of career fields for nearly 60 years now and have done so in a way which makes people notice.

They are my inspiration for this piece.

When my secretary's email reminded me I had an article to write for the base paper, I wasn't sure what to write about. Later that day when my family and I were sitting 10 rows back at the civic center witnessing yet another great Tops in Blue performance, the idea came to me.

It was an idea I often thought about, and now have a chance to write about. I would often wonder what magic formula brings professional success to some more than to others. For instance, what makes this elite group of Airmen in Tops in Blue so special?

For one thing, they're comprised of very small numbers. Not everyone who auditions gets selected.

In the Air Force, not everyone who serves gets picked to be Airman of the Quarter, Senior Airman Below the Zone, a Distinguished Graduate from Professional Military Education or chosen to supervise or command other Airmen.

Why is this? I'll bet most know the answer.

In part, it's a numbers game - and not everyone can be number one.

If people are honest with themselves and observant enough to see it, they know being number one requires quality input. This includes having a great attitude, a desire to learn and grow personally and professionally, a collaborative spirit and hard work.

Good supervision is also a must. After all, success depends upon caring supervisors along the way who nurture, encourage and point Airmen in the right direction when they stray.

I've personally never viewed career success as a destination. It has always been just a gauge of my progress up to that point and a guide for where my focus needed to be to reach the next milestone.

Each person will view his or her own career path differently, but anyone can spot a standup Airman on the right path.

These individuals catch the attention of others as they traverse the corridors of their work centers. Anyone can see when Airmen understand what they're doing and recognize that potential for continued professional success is simply a matter of repeating what they already do so well.

These Airmen are easy to spot by the extra bounce in their walk, the look of determination on their face, how sharply they present themselves in uniform and how respectfully they greet authority and treat their fellow Airmen. Their outlook is always positive and their attitude is always in check. And as can be expected, they garner better results than their peers.

Most Airmen are only doing what the Air Force has asked of them when they joined. No doubt, without them, the bigger mission wouldn't get done. However, only a fraction of Airmen are a clear cut above the rest and carry the Air Force's reputation to an even higher level of excellence and prestige.

These Airmen are peddling faster than the masses. They're never too busy to speak up when something doesn't look or feel right or when they see the potential to improve a process or procedure. No one is surprised when these Airmen bend down to pick up trash as they pass because they know it's the right thing to do.

When people think of Tops in Blue, they might think of the Air Force's small, elite collection of performers, who draw smiles and boost morale, as American ambassadors to the world.

Due to this important, beneficial and codependent role, their relationship with the rest of the Air Force is symbiotic. Tops in Blue draw from all the ranks of the Air Force and in turn benefit all Airmen by being their representation to the outside world.

While it's true not all Airmen can be top-notch entertainers, all of them can choose to be tops in blue. For this, there's no particular talent required. The only requirement is a desire to tap into their potential and be the best Airmen they can be.

This is what I believe is the magic formula which brings success for some careers over others. The potential is there for everyone, but only a small number of Airmen will dedicate themselves to reaching it.