Know Your Airmen…Be a little Intrusive

  • Published
  • By Commander
  • 9th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
How well do you know your Airmen? Are you as their supervisor a little intrusive in their lives? "You are over 18 and over 100 pounds, you make your own decisions" - many times that is what I say to new Airmen upon their arrival at their first operational assignment. I tell them when they make decisions, they are required to be held accountable for those decisions. However, part of guiding them to make smart, accurate and good decisions in our Air Force falls upon the front line supervisor. More than any other factor in Airmen's lives; NCOs will be the largest influence to making Airmen successful.

However, in today's force, we are doing so much more with less. Less funding, less manning, less everything. In turn, the pressure to get the mission done is greatly increased. By the very nature of our Airmen they concentrate and execute the mission with skills and grace that put the rest of the world's air forces in awe. Bu along the way, mentoring our folks often gets pushed to the side. We get to it when we can. That is where I encourage our frontline supervisors to learn to become a little intrusive into our Airmen's lives.

Being intrusive is a fine art. We all don't want to come off as being overbearing and micromanagers of peoples' lives. Though being intrusive is not an easy thing to do, it's learned via experience and time. The front line supervisor, that NCO, needs to figure a way or learn how to pass through that personal space to get into the Airmen's mind.
Why is being a little intrusive so important? There might be the one occasion when that NCO is intrusive, that he or she learns Airman Jones has real issues. These issues can be marital problems, an addiction or a financial problem. Additionally, being slightly intrusive can make it clear to Airman Jones that someone cares.

To illustrate this point, nothing serves better than a real world example. One squadron in which I served, we had a young NCO who really kicked butt at doing his job. He came from a traditional Asian family and his father had recently passed away. Well, in that Asian culture, a funeral last five days. The cost? $17,000! This young man was "cowboying up" and did not say much to his peers. This young NCO attempted to take it all on himself to resolve, and his duty performance suffered. However, one of his wingmen noticed the out-of-normal behavior and decided to be intrusive, because he knew the young NCO was not acting normally. The rest of the story? As soon as his wingman figured it out the squadron went into action and through Operation Warmheart, the Air Force Assistance Fund and by passing the hat we were able to slash the huge funeral bill. The result? Today, that NCO is doing well at his job again.

Finally, in our Air Force of today it is imperative that we be a little intrusive in our Airmen's lives. With our operations tempo, our Airmen deserve it and they count on our concern, whether they admit to it or not. With intrusiveness in mind, here are some questions to aid supervisors to overcome that personal wall to just learn more about their Airmen:

- How is the job? If they trust their supervisors, they will get a quick feel for how things are going.

- What are your goals in life? Full Air Force career, get married, have kids, go to college? Find out where they want to go and try to help them along that effort.

- How is your family? Whether married with kids, a significant other, Mom or Dad, our Airmen need to know their supervisors can aide in the balancing act of the mission and the human side of being in the Air Force.

- How are you? I recently added this question due to a general officer's wise commentary that made it clear, a supervisor must make that one-to-one connection and where the rubber meets the road with our Airmen. Moreover, in the question, "how are you?" is where the art of being intrusive is crucial and more so than the other three questions above.

So when it comes to knowing your Airmen, being a little intrusive translates to a front line supervisor knowing their Airmen and they will be better equipped to help our Airmen down life's path. Again, know your Airmen and be a little intrusive.