Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. David Dock
Headquarters, Air Force Space Command
3/1/2013 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- In
November 1992, a new chief master sergeant was assigned to my squadron.
It caught all of our units' Airmen by surprise that the new chief
decided to move into the office adjacent to the bathrooms when there
were much better locations behind "the glass doors."
One early afternoon, I walked into the bathroom and on my way back the
chief asked me to come into his office to talk. He proceeded to ask me
about my life, my family, my hopes and goals. He challenged how I was
pursuing my goals and continued on to instruct me on how my decisions
could and would affect my future service. The chief re-vectored me on a
few of my developmental choices and ended the conversation with..."we
WILL be doing this again!"
As the chief exclaimed, this became a pattern.
Over the next year or so, he would stop me on my way back from my break
for updates. The chief amazed me with his precise recollection of all of
the events in my life. He knew names, dates, progresses and shortfalls.
Shortly after my selection to staff sergeant, he called me into his
office and said, "Dave, I am going to let you in on a little secret. I
keep a close eye on all of my people and try to steer any and all who
will listen on a professional development path, but I have a select few
that I feel a vested interest in that I feel will go onto great things.
The key is...they get that it's not about you, it's about us. Dave, you
are one of my select few." I was stunned and really didn't know how to
respond. He went on to say, "You are going to be a chief someday and I
will be in your ear to congratulate you."
A few months later, I was selected for instructor duty and on my last day in the unit, I went into his office.
I asked, "Chief, since I'm leaving can you please tell me how you have
developed such a great memory? You know everything about everybody!"
He responded, "Since you will be a fellow chief in the future...here's
the secret," and he pulled out a Rolodex. You see, every time an Airman
would go into the bathroom the chief would review their Rolodex card and
when they were heading back to their work area he would stop them, give
them a summary of their last conversation and ask for updates. When
they were done and they departed he would update their card (in pencil)
and wait for the next meeting.
Showing that level of concern and interest in all of his people, that
lit my leadership light bulb. I want and strive to be that chief.
One final note: The day I was informed that I had been selected for
chief (14 years after his retirement), my cell phone rang and at the
other end of the line was my chief. He said, "I told you this would
happen. Now remember, it's not about you, it's about us!"