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NEWS | Nov. 27, 2012

How Airman Snuffy changed my view on standards

By Master Sgt. Brian Potvin Air Combat Command

As I move through what are most likely the last few years of my U.S. Air Force career, my mentality began changing.

Those things which we hold dear, like proper wear of the uniform, high-and-tight haircuts and standing when a commissioned officer addresses us seem less important.

Not that I don't still do those things, but they somehow haven't seemed to matter as much to me. Possibly because I've started thinking about the next phase of my life; when I take the uniform off one final time and switch it out for a business suit.

That mentality changed late October, when I had the privilege of traveling to Joint Base-San Antonio and watch my only niece graduate from Air Force Basic Military Training.

While there were several events which occurred throughout the three days we were on base, the one I consider to be the most important was the Airman's Coin Ceremony. Every one of the more than 800 graduates marched onto the small drill pad as a trainee, and by the time they left 45 minutes later, they were all "Airmen."

I remember watching my niece earn her coin from her Military Training Instructor, my eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with pride. At that point, she officially carried on what has been a family tradition of service to the U.S. Air Force, almost continually, since before we became a separate branch of service in 1947.

Later that day, while eating lunch at the Base Exchange, I noticed a BMT graduate walk by me with a belt loop that was broken on his blue pants. Not wanting him to get yelled at by an MTI, I walked over and politely let him know that he needed to fix it. He turned around, saw me in my service dress uniform and snapped to attention.

He gave me his reporting statement: "Sir, Airman 'Snuffy' reports as ordered," and let me know that the loop had just broken. He was heading back to his dormitory after lunch to put on a new pair of pants. He thanked me for letting him know, and I went on my way.

The entire reason I'm writing this article is because of that interaction with "Airman Snuffy."

He didn't know me at all - we were total strangers. He didn't know where I worked, what I do for the Air Force or that I am probably less than two years from retirement. I don't think any of that mattered to him. All he knew was that a master sergeant was talking to him.

That is when I was reminded that I, as do all noncommissioned officers and commissioned officers, have a responsibility to hold everyone to all standards, and to personally exceed the standards. It doesn't matter if we are a day away from our retirement ceremony, we have an impact on each and every person we come in contact with. Whether it's a positive or negative impact is totally up to us.

It took the combination of watching my niece become an Airman and my interaction with "Airman Snuffy" to force me to change, and remind me of the huge responsibilities which rest on my shoulders.

I know that every morning when I put on my uniform I'm going to ask myself, "What kind of impact are you going to have on people today?"

I think that's a question everyone should ask themselves before they start their workday, determined to have a positive impact on as many people as possible.

Thanks, "Airman Snuffy", for unwittingly reminding me of what's expected of me.