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NEWS | Aug. 13, 2012

Sic transit gloria mundi

By Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

All the senior airmen in my office nervously huddled around a single computer as we nervously awaited the staff sergeant promotion results to be released.

No one moved - no one even breathed. We were all transfixed as the audible mouse click echoed throughout the room, signifying each time the website was refreshed.

Of course the internet broke as soon as the list was scheduled to be released - more than likely from every senior airman in the Air Force doing the same thing we were. I decided to return to my desk, already feeling overly anxious about the results. For months, I had methodically convinced myself I wasn't going to make it - to ease the potential disappointment. I sat at my desk, trying to busy myself with tasks that would keep me from thinking about my Air Force career, which was perpetually locked in a malfunctioning website. My supervisor walked up to me.

"I have some bad news," he said, as my shoulders slumped and I let out a sigh that was half disappointment - half relief. "It looks like you'll be taking on some additional responsibilities."

I smiled and started to laugh as he congratulated me. I couldn't even be upset that he'd tricked me, as I raced to our customer service desk, where the other senior airmen were celebrating their results. In an office with five senior airmen, the Air Force had just selected four to promote. Our Public Affairs officer came out to congratulate us, adding to the moment we were all savoring. When he got to me, he paused.

"Remember," he said. "All glory is fleeting."

I smiled back, remembering full well the phrase he had used so often during our deployment to Africa in 2011. "All glory is fleeting," which loosely translates to Latin as "Sic transit gloria mundi," has served as a constant reminder for me to not rest on the laurels I receive for doing what was expected of me.

The Air Force expects me to promote. It expects me to develop myself and reach my full potential, otherwise it would not have invested so much time, money and energy into my training. The awards and recognition along the way are nice. They serve as guideposts - pointing Airmen toward future success. They also instill a healthy competition among Airmen, who use awards as motivators toward excellence. They have their place, so long as Airmen remember that all glory is fleeting.

Because, at the end of the day, as I learned from the first wing commander I ever worked for, the rank doesn't make the Airman. The Airman makes the rank. Leadership, as he told me after his farewell party, is not worn on your sleeve. It is worn on the thoughts, faces and actions of the Airmen you interact with on a daily basis.

These Airmen are watching you all the time. They are mentally taking notes on the words and actions of their supervisors. From those actions, they will either emulate or demonize you - there is often no middle ground. As I prepare to step into the first tier of supervision within the Air Force, I want to make sure I keep these lessons I have learned in the front of my mind. I want to be the kind of supervisor I would want to work for.

That's what this story is. It's not a sermon or a lesson - it's a reminder for Staff. Sgt. Jarad Denton. When I start supervising Airmen, I want to be able to look back at this article and know I am still taking care of the mission, and taking care of the people in the best way possible. I want to know I am not resting on past successes, or looking for accolades to come my way when I do something that is expected of me.

I want to know I have lived by the philosophy that all glory is fleeting.