Complete don’t just compete

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Lavor Kirkpatrick
  • 9th Reconnaissance Wing
The spirit of competition is alive and well in today's Air Force. As enlisted Airmen, competition is all around us. We compete with other Airmen for promotions, awards, special duties, and top graduate accolades to name a few. Competition can bring out the best and worst in people. I want to discuss a few ways to avoid being a member of the latter group. Not many people will admit to allowing their competitive edge to get the best of them, so it is important we begin with a self diagnosis to see which group you are a member of.

Have you ever wanted to see someone fall on their face and fail at something? Do you withhold important information or resources from others so you can maintain a competitive advantage? When someone accomplishes something, is your first thought, "I could have done that better?" Have you ever told your 6 year old child to punch another kid in the face during a youth soccer game? For some of us these are all easy no's, but if you answered yes to any of these questions then you may have let competition get the best of you. If that shoe fits, then I want to challenge you to embrace healthy competition while avoiding the pitfalls of unhealthy competition.

In my experience unhealthy competition exists when the "team" is not defined or when personal goals outweigh the team's goals. First, you need to keep in mind Team Beale's motto "One Team, One Fight." We're all on the same team, and that team includes active-duty, reserve, guard, civilian, contractors, retirees, and dependents. Secondly, never let your personal goals or aspirations drive a wedge between you and your team. Much like the athlete who wants the top score, your true effectiveness is measured in team wins. How do you measure a team win? Well, I'm glad you asked. A team win is when the focus is on the team and not on our self. We grow beyond competition and into the spirit of completion.

Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake, Jamaica's Olympic Sprint champions, are great examples of competitors who learned to complete one another. In Jamaica, these training partners pushed and challenged each other to train harder and run faster. Though they were competitors they were completers who helped each other get better. This was evident when Blake beat Bolt in the Jamaican trials and then told Bolt he had to stay focused if he wanted to be successful at the London games. Bolt took his advice and won three gold medals with Blake taking a gold and two silver medals. They understood a team win was just as important as the individual medals. This principle is not owned by athletes - it is exemplified in the Air Force through our Wingman concept.

A Wingman is a "completer," not a competitor. A true wingman is invested in the success of others and will take action to help others achieve their best. A wingman seeks to complete and or fix inadequacies before they impact the team. Completers do things. For instance, they take the car keys out the hands of a teammate who has been drinking, encourage a teammate to complete their CCAF, or take a teammate out to PT a few times a week so they don't fail another fitness assessment. By being a good wingman, these actions help to complete our fellow Airman. Airmen today need more wingmen and completers then they do rivals and competitors.

The Air Force is the greatest team in air, space, and cyberspace and our Airmen are individually and collectively the best Airmen on earth. With healthy competition and an attitude of completion, we build stronger teams and get the best out of our Airmen by forging a stronger Wingman culture. "One Team, One Fight!"