Passion - believing in what you do

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brian Filler
  • 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron Commander
I enrolled in the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder, Colorado, in the fall of 1995.  My grades in high school had qualified me for a three-year Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship, but I still had to figure out how to pay for my first year of school and for my room and board.  The university sent a flyer to all perspective dorm residents and asked if anyone wanted to take part in a program that allowed us to work in our respective dining hall for significantly reduced room and board and a small stipend.  I volunteered and was accepted.  Little did I know, that decision would set me on the path to discover one of the most valuable leadership lessons I have ever learned.

I had the opportunity to work with some truly amazing people in the dining hall, but two stuck out.  The first was a migrant worker.  He had a joy for life that was contagious.  He worked extremely hard to ensure students had everything they needed, right when they needed it.  He lived in a small migrant camp south of Boulder and sent money back to his family in Mexico.  I never heard him complain about his role as a kitchen assistant or that he was separated from his family.  He simply served the students with pride.  The second was a woman in her sixties.  She, unlike many of the cooks, went above and beyond and cooked for the students as if they were all her grandchildren.  She would not accept someone cutting corners in the kitchen and I truly believe she worked as much for the satisfaction of her students as she did her paycheck.   

After working in the dining hall for almost a year and a half, I got a second job in the CU Department of Housing.  I was hired as a resident advisor (RA), where I worked until my graduation.  Being an RA taught me far more about leadership than ROTC ever could have.  It taught me how to lead people and how to work through their highs and lows.  Additionally, I met two other people when I was an RA that had a significant influence on my life.  The first was my hall director.  She had an undying love for her residents and for her staff.  She was a superb leader, manager, administrator, motivator, friend and coach.  The second was a janitor on my floor during my sophomore and junior years.  He said he was a C-130 pilot during Vietnam.  I don't know if that was true or not, but I do know that he came to work every day with a smile on his face and a drive to ensure that our floor was the cleanest in the building.  Cleaning up after sixty college students with communal bathrooms and common spaces was a daunting task, but he was never deterred. 

No one would characterize any of the jobs mentioned above as glamorous, but the individuals who were so influential to me believed in what they were doing because they were making a difference in people's lives, which made all of the difference in their job performance. 

In the spring of 1999, I graduated, earned my commission, entered the Air Force and reported to my first duty station at Malmstrom Air Force Base.  At Wing One I continued to meet Airmen who share a common trait with the people mentioned above.  Specifically, my first flight chief who taught me how to lead Airmen and drove me hard to be a better officer; my sponsor, a fellow lieutenant who worked sixteen hours a day to ensure his Airmen and the new lieutenant assigned to him provided the best nuclear security possible; and my convoy flight sergeant, who consistently demonstrated how to accomplish a mission and deeply care about his people at the same time.

As I prepared to take command of the 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron, I reflected on all of the people above and tried to sum up the one trait that made them special and made them excel at the tough jobs many people could not or would not do.  The answer finally came to me - passion.  People who are passionate make a difference.  In order to be passionate, individuals have to believe in what they are doing.  It should be easy for all of us at Wing One to be passionate about providing nuclear deterrence for America.  My charge to my squadron and my charge to all of you in Wing One is to be passionate about two things - taking care of each other and taking care of the mission.