Don’t believe your 1206

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland -- As we enter the pinnacle of the NCAA Basketball season a quote from the great John Wooden seems fitting: “Talent is God given, be humble. Fame is man given, be grateful. Conceit is self-given, be careful.”

Coach Wooden was talking about not believing your own hype. In Air Force lingo, don’t believe your 1206!

When I was a young and self-confident junior NCO, I had the fortune of working for the crustiest, meanest retired senior NCO I have yet to come across. He was a retired senior master sergeant and also a civilian employee, GS-12, and I could do nothing right. I slaved away for this guy, never receiving the recognition I felt I deserved.

We killed our Unit Compliance Inspection, and landed “Best Medium Security Forces unit” in Air Mobility Command, life was good. Without my knowledge, the boss put me in for NCO of the year.

A couple months later my name was called at commander’s call. I was surprised, but arrogant enough to feel it was deserved. A week or two later I missed a deadline set by the boss and he obliterated me in front of everyone.

”Don’t start believing your 1206,” are the only words I remember from that discussion and “discussion” is putting it politely.

It wasn’t until years later, while supervising my own set of NCOs, that I finally realized what he meant.

You see, when you believe your own 1206 you are living in the past. You are resting on your accomplishments rather than looking to the next mission. Awards are great but they have zero impact on your future missions.

Do not live in the past. What you did at your last base or your last job is not important. Actions are what matter. Keep your head down, work hard, push your Airmen and support them.

Give them the tools to succeed and you and your Airmen will be recognized. Your Airmen will not respect you more because of the awards on your “I love me wall.”

Teaching, mentoring and being honest with your Airmen is what matters. Get in the trenches, display your work ethic and keep calm when things go wrong. Those are the things that will earn the respect of your Airmen and supervisors. That is what makes a leader.

Over reactions to everyday, non-life threatening situations display a fear for your career. Things will go wrong. People will make mistakes. Are you willing to rise to help correct those mistakes? Or, are you going to panic because of the possible career impacts your Airmen’s mistakes reflect on you?

If you are humble, not too invested in your 1206 and keep things in perspective, then you will have the courage and fortitude to lead your Airmen through adversity. You will earn the trust of your superiors and Airmen. More importantly the mission will succeed.