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Hard work: Can others see it on you?

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- To borrow an often quoted preamble, "So there I was ..."

I found myself on stage at a practice for the promotion and recognition ceremony at our deployed base. One of the promotees, a young airman 1st class, wore an oil (or some other lubricant) stained uniform and boots. I studied this young man and listened to the script to hear where he worked. As I listened, I learned he was a maintainer being promoted to senior airman below-the-zone.

What I saw and heard spoke volumes to me. Here was an Airman who was just what he appeared to be -- a hard working success. He was not a shiny penny; he was the real deal. I could see he was on the mission and the mission was on him. Apparently, his leaders saw it too because they selected him to be promoted ahead of his peers.

I also pondered a question that day, "Can others see hard work on me?" When we know our job, produce results and take pride in what we do, we present the same image this young maintainer projected. Being technically ready is the first step of this journey.

Technical readiness is a key component of personal and unit readiness. Simply put, know your job. According to Alexander Suvorov, "The problem fears the expert. A trained man is worth three untrained."

When we earn and maintain a skill-level commensurate with our rank, we become enablers of airpower within our sphere of influence and operational environment. Others see our excellence and subsequently examine themselves and hopefully adjust their efforts.

We must also put in the work. Knowing the job is one thing; producing is another. Airmen neither alibi nor imitate; they produce. As fortune would have it, I got a chance to see this newly-minted senior airman in action a few nights later on the flightline.

It was clear to me he was the master of this domain and a wealth of knowledge on the matter of aircraft hydraulics. In fact, his commander confirmed my observations. Through hard work, we must be on target all the time -- building structures, providing medical and force support, enabling communications, refueling, flying sorties and yes, providing maintenance -- because hard work is not measured in stains, but service and results.

Finally, we must take pride in what we do. To put it in another familiar way: excellence in all we do. There is something infectious and contagious about excellence. The more one produces it, the more they want to produce. You may have heard the Biblical quote, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

It is true. The more I observed this young man, both at the promotion practice and on the flightline, the more introspective and motivated I became. I want others to see hard work on me every day.

William W. Warmath once wrote, "Suffering and success go hand-in-hand. If you are having success, it is because someone before you suffered. If you are suffering, it is so someone after you can have success."

As we build on the legacy of Airmen, Soldiers and Sailors of the past, we must remember the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary. Our hard work today will produce immeasurable results for our family, Air Force, nation and the world tomorrow. Can others see hard work on you?