10 helpful tips for long, successful Air Force career

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mike Cannon
  • 62nd Aerial Port Squadron commander
A few years ago, I read an article written for an Air Force base paper in England. It was written by captain in the Area Defense Counsel office. In it, he discussed, from his experiences, the top ten things an Airman could do to stay out of trouble.

I've had the opportunity to command five different units and have found that advice to be spot on. I took that top-10 list and modified it a bit to fit my experience and perspective as a commander.

10. Quit getting sloppy drunk. The vast majority of Airmen (of all ranks) who come see me in their service dress were for alcohol-related incidents. In fact, most of the other items on this list are either caused by or exacerbated by alcohol abuse. I define "sloppy drunk" using the 0-0-1-3 criterion. Drinking underage? Had an alcohol-related incident? You're sloppy drunk.

9. Don't EVER do drugs. There is no room in our Air Force for drug abusers. Don't do illegal drugs -- ever.

8. Don't lie, even a little. I correct mistakes and punish crimes. Don't turn a mistake into a crime by lying to cover it up. If you are read your rights, you have two choices; tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, or say nothing at all until you consult a lawyer. Doing anything else will make the situation much worse.

7. Live within your means. The formula is easy even if math is not your strongest subject. Write down how much you make each month. Below that, write down how much you spend each month. Subtract the bottom number from the top number. If the answer is less than zero, you are not living within your means.

6. Be likeable and valuable. If you are a team player, strive to get along in the workplace and do what is expected of you, your supervisors will notice and appreciate you. They will provide you opportunities to excel.

5. Don't fight. If you really want to duke it out with somebody, try organized boxing. It's a lot harder than it looks.

4. Be squared away. When does a good Airman need a haircut? Never! A good Airman gets a haircut before he or she needs one. Be punctual for ALL appointments. If you are early, you're on time. If you are on time, you're late.

3. Treat everyone with respect. All of our Airmen have earned and deserve our respect. If we treat each other with respect at all times, most of these other problems go away.

2. Don't hang out with idiots. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. You're known by the company you keep. If your friends are doing the things listed above, people will assume you are, too.

1. Always ask for a lawyer. It's not only your right, it's a really good idea. If you are in my office in your service dress, you can bet I've already talked to a lawyer. Contact the ADC before answering questions and anytime you are given paperwork. Even if lawyer there can't help get you out of the predicament you're in, he or she will help you present your best case and minimize the damage.