Taking care of Airmen is top priority

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Louis Orrie
  • 10th Airlift Squadron
I have learned several lessons over the course of my career, but one thing has remained constant and vital, especially in this day and age of dwindling resources and that is taking care of our most valuable resource - people. One of the most important things a supervisor is charged to accomplish during his or her career is taking care of their Airmen.

Our people are responsible for making the mission happen and it is the duty and responsibility of every supervisor, from the senior Airman that recently graduated from Airman Leadership School all the way up to our general officers to ensure their subordinates are cared for. Taking care of the Airmen lets them know you are actually interested in their lives, careers, aspirations and goals and can provide long-term returns like increased work center production and morale, higher retention rates and greater levels of participation in unit activities.

There are at least three things I do to ensure I am adequately taking care of my Airmen. One of the first items is to find out how my Airmen are doing. This means getting out from behind the desk to make the rounds through the work centers, dorms, dining facility and base housing area. This gives me the opportunity to discover any issues firsthand before they become major problems.

A second item I do is to become familiar with the different aspects of my Airmen's lives. Once I discover what drives my Airmen, it gives me the chance to assist them in attaining those specific goals.

The third item is take the time to actually listen to what my Airmen are saying. There is a massive difference between hearing and listening and it is imperative that supervisors not just hear, but listen to their subordinates. When interacting with the Airmen, take the extra few seconds to listen to the answer they give to the question asked. Appropriately taking care of my Airmen makes a connection, which allows them to approach me when they are having a problem or need assistance, whether personal or professional.

If you do not take an active interest in your Airmen's future or are not willing to listen to their problems, it will have disastrous results on maintaining a productive work center and retaining quality personnel in the service. I am sure every individual has a story about a poor supervisor or one of that individual who never really seems to listen or could care less if his or her subordinates are ill or injured. Taking care of your folks, as a supervisor, should be a top priority because the Air Force's fate and future will ultimately rest in those subordinate's hands. Not only is every supervisor charged with that responsibility per Air Force Instructions, but it is also the humane thing to do.

Always keep in mind when dealing with your personnel that today's Airman is tomorrow's chief or general and the example you set for them today will last a career.