Commentary: Keys to balance in a 30-year career in the Air Force

309th Missile Maintenance Group supervisor
December 13, 2012

Editor’s Note: Chief Master Sgt. Mark Salyards will retire in a ceremony at Hill Air Force Base on Dec. 14. His last day in service will be March 1, 2013, marking 30-plus years in the Air Force.)

As I approach my retirement date, people ask me how I was able to make it through 30 years of active duty time in the Air Force. I tell them it was not as hard as people may think. 

Yes it is a long time to wear the uniform, but it is an attainable goal if you maintain a positive attitude. 

My latest assignment brought me to Hill AFB on May 31, 2009. I’ve served here as the superintendent of the 309th Missile Maintenance Group and as superintendent of the Ogden Air Logistics Complex. I find this position interesting and unique because I help both the Missile Maintenance Group commander, as well as the Air Logistics Complex commander at the same time. 

I’ve enjoyed my work and believed in the mission, which seemed to make the 30 years I’ve served go by very quickly. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of highs and lows during those 30 years. The one concept I used to help me throughout my career was to do my best, be engaged and take care of the people. 

Anytime I felt my world going in the wrong direction I would always go back and ask myself these three questions: Am I doing my best, am I engaged, and am I taking care of the people? 

Every time one of these three was out of balance — when things were not going in the right direction — as soon as I corrected what was out of balance, everything started to settle back into place. 

All anybody can ask of you is to do your best. If you are doing your best, good things will happen for you and your organization. 

You need to be engaged — that is, fully committed to your squadron, your organization, your installation, your MAJCOM, your Air Force, and the cause they represent. If you are engaged, and you know what is going on in your organization and understand your requirements, you will be able to perform your duties. 

Lastly, always remember to take care of your people or co-workers. 

Taking care of people means sincerely rewarding them when they have done something good. Taking care of people also mean giving them a course correction when they need proper guidance to get back on track. Be consistent in this area because the people will come to appreciate your efforts, especially if you maintain consistency.

The answer to the mysterious question that people continue to ask me about how I as able to have such longevity in the Air Force is very basic. For me it always came back to doing my best, staying engaged, and taking care of the people. If you keep this in mind, you too can have a long and successful career.


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