Year of Leadership: Excellence in All Things

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Stone
  • 10th Missile Squadron Commander
In a letter to his son, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee exhorted him to "Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more. You should never wish to do less." 

Every Airman on Malmstrom AFB could doubtless recite some type of job description if asked their duty; but our duty does not entail simply performing a given set of tasks. Our duty as Airmen is to do all things and we must do them well. We must embody the core value "Excellence in all we do." 

As American warriors, we have an obligation to demand excellence of ourselves and of each other. This excellence quite certainly includes those tasks within our primary job descriptions; but it must extend beyond that. It must include the manner in which we wear our uniforms, the way we conduct and carry ourselves, and the quality of work we put into peripheral tasks, such as additional duties, performance report writing and every single thing we do. In this column two weeks ago, Master Sergeant Robert Pemp cited a quote from Gen. George S. Patton questioning the fighting ability of a military force which is unable to wear its uniforms properly. General Patton's quote is particularly salient if we accept wearing uniforms as a euphemism for all of the peripheral elements of our duty. If we are unable to perform small tasks to the standard of excellence, an adversary will find it difficult to take seriously our ability to go to war. Perception is reality. 

The mission of the 341st Missile Wing is to defend America with combat-ready Airmen and nuclear forces. Maintaining our combat readiness is the wing's most important mission, but it's not enough simply to have the capability; the adversary must know we are capable. Our missiles are not immediately visible to our adversaries, but our people and facilities are center stage. Everything we do shapes our credibility as a professional fighting force. If our potential adversaries see base facilities that are well cared for and sharp personnel who are committed to the mission and who exhibit excellence in everything we do, those adversaries will have no choice but to believe our culture of excellence extends to our capability and readiness to fight. Conversely, if we don't take care of our facilities and we are sloppy in our uniforms and the manner in which we conduct ourselves, a potential adversary will likely question our viability as a fighting force. 

In addition to influencing a potential adversary, our attitudes and our actions influence each other. If we routinely accept mediocre, it will become the standard. Conversely, if we demand excellence of ourselves and each other, it will be contagious. In an environment where "do it absolutely right, the first time, every time" is the standard, the idea of accepting anything less will quickly fade to absurdity. 

We are all warriors and our nation depends on us to protect those things we, as a nation, hold dear. Being a warrior does not require one to be part of an ICBM alert crew or carry a weapon and guard a post; it's larger and more transcendental. Being a warrior is a state of mind that demands uncompromising pursuit of excellence, regardless of one's job description or the task at hand. As the nation's vanguards and keepers of freedom, we must relentlessly seek, demand and embrace excellence in all we do; it's our duty and we cannot wish to do less.