Commentary by Senior Master Sgt. Vincent Miller
2nd Maintenance Squadron
6/12/2013 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- As
Airmen, we are more than familiar with the need to fill the proverbial
squares as we strive to progress in our military career.
To be competitive for awards and promotions, we must commit ourselves to
goals such as education, passing the fitness exam, and community
service. It is through completion of these expectations and requirements
that we become better leaders, managers and Airmen. However, somewhere
along the way, we fail to internalize the importance of why we fill
In reality, the squares are designed to make us better and provide a
separation between the willing and unwilling -- the committed and
uncommitted. The squares help identify Airmen who are motivated and
willing to go the extra mile to better themselves, their team, and the
Air Force. It is this drive towards self-improvement that separates one
from the masses and establishes his or her true identity.
One square that requires a great deal of commitment is the pursuit of
education. As we continually strive to become that "whole person," we
must challenge ourselves intellectually and work toward attaining a
certification; associate, bachelor's, or even a master's degree.
Attending school is not easy and takes sacrifice. It means spending your
time writing a research paper, while everyone else is enjoying the
weekend. It means taking your textbook on the flightline and studying
every chance you get. It means being the security forces Airman I saw
reading a biology book while eating breakfast in the dining facility.
At this moment some of you are saying there is no time to attend school;
high operations tempo, 40-hour work week, and spending time with family
are a few reasons that prevent you from taking classes. Additionally,
some of you may feel we should be evaluated solely on work performance.
Honestly, these excuses are hindering you from progressing and improving
yourself. If you continue to hide behind them, like I once did, you
will never take yourself to the next level.
It took a long time to realize that fear and toxic excuses prevented me
from seeking an education. Constant mentorship and a few one-way
"conversations" from a chief master sergeant propelled me down the road
Dedicating yourself to filling the squares is a decision only you can
make. By filling them you demonstrate the willingness of constant
self-improvement and unwavering commitment, which directly benefits you,
your team, and the Air Force. Filling the squares also establishes
separation from your peers and it is through this separation that you
are most likely to fulfill your career aspirations and goals.
The choice is yours and yours alone. Be willing to accept the
consequences. Don't say, "He/she only got Senior Airman below-the-zone
because he went to school." Rather, you must say, "I lost because I
chose not to go to school. I chose not to fill the squares."