BLUF – Our past helps shape where we are today, but we choose the next steps towards earning success in the future.
As an officer, PCS season can come around every 2-3 years (more like 1-2 for me). With every move comes the opportunity to meet new teammates and hopefully relink with old ones. As a young CGO, I got the usual looks of “is he really an officer?”, mainly because of my youthful and dashingly handsome looks #kiddingnotkidding. I spend a good time chatting with SNCOs as I know I will be working with closely to lead our teams. After a few months of getting to know each other, we get to learn about our past experiences while living through new ones. I don’t profess to know many people, but my stories are usually entertaining ones. After a while, I share that I’m a military brat and that my Dad served. The usual follow-on question is, “What did he do?” I reply with, “He was a maintenance Chief.” And then a huge response of, “OHHHHH, that’s what it is. You come from good stock.” (That quote is from Chief (ret) Mark Huckeba while I was stationed at Davis-Monthan AFB).
Fast forward close to 10 years, I’m attending a social event at the 2018 Air Force IT conference in Montgomery, AL. I run into Chief Dave Anthony, whom I also served with at Davis-Monthan. We’ve run into each other a few times since our times in AZ, most notably when I was at PACAF working with his AFCYBER teammates. Chief Anthony pulls me aside and says he wants to introduce me to some people. Now he wasn’t suggesting anything, he was telling me what was going to happen. After meeting a few senior leaders, I realized I was talking to more and more personnel that were serving in positions that I want to eventually rise to. I had all of my 15 second elevator pitches ready on what our community needs to move towards and how I wanted to be part of the next chapter. I also did my best to not embarrass myself, drawing attention away from work to talk about fanny packs and skateboarding, which got a laugh and lightened the mood.
In between the conversations, Chief Anthony mentioned to me, “Don’t worry, I got you Sir. You’ve always impressed me as a great leader and overall good dude. We need you to continue to lead and take care of our Airmen, and I want to help where I can. And never discount the recommendation from a Chief.”
This story involves four points I share with our emerging leaders of today:
If you’re an officer, lead your Airmen. They expect it of you. One of the measurements I use prior to issuing orders to my enlisted teammates is “Would I feel comfortable giving my Dad these orders?” If the answer is yes, I proceed. If not, I re-evaluate and try again. My Dad gave me that advice early in my career, even sometimes offering to “come down there and knock some skulls of those S/NCOs not stepping up” (which I never took him up on, hahaha). This measurement always helps me ground what my role is in the team: the officer responsible for making decisions. Those decisions need to be as informed as possible, relying on the expertise of our enlisted force, the backbone of the greatest military in the world.
Take care of your teammates and your teammates will take care of you. Aligned with #DBAA protocol, simply doing your job as a good teammate can yield endless positive results. I didn’t work hard to impress SMSgt (at the time) Anthony with hopes of leveraging some future advantage. I worked hard because I wanted my team and my teammates to succeed. I’m a full believer of putting forth positive energy in the world will eventually return to you. This often involves putting in hard work, not nothing worthwhile doesn’t include hard work.
Never discount the recommendations from a Chief. ‘Nuff said.
Carve your own path, but remember those that helped you along the way. Early in my career I wanted to be known as Lt Avilla, not Chief Avilla’s son. That’s typically normal of a child following in their parents footsteps. My dad’s accomplishments were obviously something to be proud of, but I wanted to earn my own reputation as a leader. I need my team to believe in me based on what I can do for them today, not an impression of my past. I step into every new position of leadership building off the experiences along my journey, yet with positive energy that is not fueled by “the good old’ days” past or accomplishments. I know my stock as the son of a Chief is rare currency that I don’t take for granted. If anything, I work even harder to elevate to the potential I know I have in myself and those that believe in me.
Love you Dad, still trying to make the Avilla name as honored in the Air Force when you wore the uniform ♥️.