First impressions

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Richard Redman
  • 21st Space Wing command chief
Little more than six weeks ago, my family and I crossed the Plains and in to Colorado. As we approached the Front Range, the mountains slowly came into view under clear skies and a bright sun. Our initial impression of the area was fantastic. Each of us was thrilled to be going to our new home. As we drove onto Peterson for the first time, I thought, "Wow! What a beautiful base." The grass was green and manicured, the streets were clean, the facilities maintained, and the new housing resembled any off-base, upscale housing community. The first impression I received was very positive. I was proud to be the host command chief for such a wonderful base in such a wonderful area. First impressions don't make the place or a person, but a first impression can set the tone for great things to come. What kind of first impression do you make?

Each day, every one of us has the opportunity to make a good first someone. A simple smile and hello to a stranger gives the impression that you're friendly and approachable. A properly maintained and worn uniform to go with a fit appearance gives an impression of pride, professionalism and self-discipline. An email message with correct spelling and grammar along with a clear and concise message gives an impression of intelligence and attention-to-detail. I ask again, "What kind of first impression do you make?"

We should never underestimate the value of a good first impression. The impression we make as Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, Airmen, government civilians, contractors and family members both on and off duty speaks volumes about who we are and the calling we have in representing our nation. A positive interaction with the local community and external organizations builds goodwill. A negative interaction, such as a driving under the influence charge, speaks negatively about the individual, but in some cases, about all of us as a whole. A good first impression helps build credibility whereas a bad first impression diminishes us in the eyes of those we serve.

Our defenders or augmentees working the gates can set the initial tone for how someone sees our base and our people by how they greet a person in the morning. A smug "You're good..." while they look to the next car may be efficient, but a warm greeting and smile as a driver's identification is checked can set a good tone for that driver's day. What can you do each day to make a good first and lasting Impression on those people you come across?

In the business world, a good first impression will go a long way in helping someone make a sale. In our world of service to a nation, a good first impression is truly about service. The impression should not be about hoping someone likes us, but more about helping them see all of us in a positive light and that we are willing and capable of serving their needs. When someone arrives at our base for the first time, do we greet them properly at lodging? Do we welcome them within the work center? Do we help them get settled? Do we introduce them to others? Every interaction we make with them will affect how they feel about the base as a whole and may affect how they approach their job the first day. The first impression we make, if good, can jumpstart an assignment and, quite possibly, lead to a more productive person from the beginning. Will you make a good first impression?

I began this commentary by writing about my arrival in Colorado Springs and Peterson Air Force Base, and how a beautiful day and beautiful base made a great first impression on me. I now want to go further in stating that even had the day been cold and wet, my first impression of this place would still have been positive. The greeting I received from individuals at the gate, to lodging, housing and my office made the real first impression. That wonderful first impression continued with the many units and people, both within the 21st Space Wing and across our many mission partners that I have had the opportunity to meet. I am truly proud to be associated with such a great group of professionals.

I ask that each day, you continue to commit yourself to look like a professional and perform like a professional. If you are willing to do that, the impression you will leave on others will be positive. The old quote, "you never get a second chance to make a good first impression" may be true, but with every new day, every new customer, every new employee, every new situation, and every new encounter, you get another chance to make a good first impression. What will you do with your next opportunity to make a good first impression?