My talk with the chief- "Do the right thing, for the right reason"

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Leah Young
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
It was a busy Wednesday afternoon. I was at work, just like any other day, never expecting to speak with retired eighth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Sam Parish.

"Do the right thing, for the right reason," said Chief Parish. "And the right reason never entails 'I.' You do the right thing, always, for your Airmen, your unit, your Air Force and for your country."

It all started earlier that morning. I was rushing back to the office after interviewing a few pilots for an upcoming feature on their squadron.

"There you are!" said my supervisor. He threw a tape recorder and the Air Force Professional Development Guide in my hands and said, "You're going to interview the eighth Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force on the way back from the airport. Take good notes. Hurry up, they're waiting for you."

While my brain attempted to process such an unexpected demand, I quickly gathered my things and jumped into the command chief's car. Chief Parish was in town to speak at the 62nd Airlift Wing Annual Awards Banquet the following night.

As we took off towards the airport, I realized how unprepared I was and how nervous I had become. During the 40 minute drive, I was able to gather my thoughts and formulate a plan while reading about the eighth CMSAF in the PDG. Needless to say, I was frazzled.

We arrived at the airport and I finally met Chief Parish. We all exchanged 'good afternoons' and I politely offered to help the chief put his bags into the trunk.

"I'm the only person who handles my luggage," said Chief Parish with a smile. "But thank you very much."

While attempting to maintain my composure on the car ride back, I had a long conversation with the chief. He explained the work ethic he consistently applied throughout his 33-year Air Force career.

"I never thought about making it to the top of the enlisted force," said Chief Parish. "I only thought about doing the right thing and doing the best at my job. Every stripe was a surprise to me."

Question after question and mile after mile, I was carefully listening to the best advice I'd been given during my short 17 months in the Air Force.

"If you just focus on one long-term goal, you'll lose sight of the next step you need to take in order to reach that goal," said Chief Parish. "If an Airman told me they wanted to be a chief someday, I would tell them to get to work. Because before you can be chief, you have to be a master sergeant and you can't do that before you're a staff sergeant."

As we neared the end of our journey, I thought about how I was initially angry at my supervisor for throwing this task into my lap when I least expected it. I was stressed and nervous about the interview on the way to the airport, but on the way back, I slowly realized that I became upset over nothing. I told my story to the chief, and he told me a story about his first supervisor. I noticed shocking similarities.

"My first supervisor would make me do things that I knew I couldn't do, but he would never let me fail," said Chief Parish. "When he saw that I was just about to scream and give up, he would step in and recover me. We would talk about it over a cup of coffee or lunch. And then we would go back and finish the job. He always made sure I finished what I started."

"That means your supervisor wants you to succeed," said the chief. "He wants you to be the best."

While listening to Chief Parish speak at the Annual Awards Banquet the following evening, I couldn't help but think of the car ride from the airport and how much invaluable advice he had already given me.

After his speech, I proudly shook his hand and told him what an honor it was to speak with him.

"Keep up the hard work, and don't lose that smile," said the chief. "You'll go far."