MEDIA CONTEST: RESPECT That which is offered will also be received

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  • By ACC Media Contest
  • Commentary Entry 3
There I was, walking through my neighborhood on my way home when I decided to take a shortcut through a housing development. On my way, I came a cross a little boy, maybe five or six years old, standing on the sidewalk in front of a home. As I walked by him, I offered my sentiments. "Good morning," I said, with a smile.

"What the [heck] are you looking at?" he replied, sneering at me. He said that, as he hurled a battery at my head. Yes, a battery, and yes, he hurled it at me.

While I was running full speed from my three-foot aggressor, I felt not only terrifying fear that I would have to check under my bed every night, but also completely disrespected. What has happened in my lifetime that kids think it's their right to throw hardware at full-grown adults? I would never have done that when I was younger. Where is the respect?

I have asked myself that several times since that incident several years ago, and I told you that story to break the ice on another issue - respect in the military.

Since I joined the Air Force almost seven years ago, the topic of respect has been brought up on countless occasions. But also on countless occasions I have been witness to the lack of respect, rather than vice versa.

No one likes to feel disrespected, and each one of us is a cog in this huge wheel we call the Air Force. So if we are all critical to the mission, why do people think it's OK to treat others in ways they wouldn't want to be treated?

The bottom line is that everyone has a role to play, from the airman basic to the commander-in-chief, and we can't forget that. So much energy is focused on subordinates respecting their supervisors, but if it's mutual, then the effort could be spent elsewhere, say, on accomplishing the mission.

I'm not saying to roll out the red carpet for your troops, but let them feel like you see them as a person and not just a rank. You can still delegate tasks. That is part of your job. It helps expand your troop's areas of expertise, and sometimes there is just too much for one person to do. But the way you say it makes a huge difference in the way your troops will respond to you. You can still be a leader without being down-right mean.

Barking orders at subordinates in a condescending tone delivers a message that you don't care about them as a person. Now, not only does your subordinate not respect you, but neither will their friends. Airmen have a remarkable way of networking across the base.

Think back to the best boss you have ever had. What attributes made him/her such a positive influence? Among many other traits, I bet one of them is that you felt as if he/she truly cared about you as a person.

When we take off our uniforms, we are all people, deserving of respect. We all joined the military for one reason or another. I have many officers in my family, but I chose to enlist. Why? I felt the lifestyle was more relaxed, more for me and I love the camaraderie. That doesn't mean I'm not as smart as the lieutenant across the room.

Everyone has something to bring to the table, and knowing that and showing you know that makes a big difference. Believe me, your subordinates can bring you down if they are unhappy.

Take the Airman who sits behind me as an example. He isn't just an airman 1st class. He is a grown man, a technological genius, a husband and a father. There are questions I have that he may know the answer to. I respect that and keep those things in mind when I communicate with him, and in turn, he reciprocates respect back to me. Teamwork works much better when everyone on the team feels their role is important.

The best way I think is to reflect back to the mantra I stated in the beginning and always think about how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed.

Now, subordinates don't be reading this, thinking that tomorrow your supervisor will be baking you a cake and shining your boots. There is a reason there is a rank structure and those who have more experience are appointed above you.

Our military is the best in the world so we are definitely doing something right.