Are you ‘IN?’

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Gerd Scheller
  • 21st Operations Support Squadron operations superintendent
The way you look at how you see your responsibilities can highly influence the way you approach your job and life overall. Being a military member can add a different perspective to life, it's definitely a different kind of lifestyle! As Air Force Pamphlet 36-2241, The Professional Development Guide extols, military members operate under what's called the "unlimited liability clause," meaning we might be expected to contribute far above what would be expected in most professions. But besides that, what's the difference between that and the public at large?

Should you go downtown and ask passers-by what they do, you'll get a number of responses, i.e. "I work at the supermarket," "I work for the newspaper," or "We subcontract for so-and-so." Now think of how you would respond to the same question as a military member. Would you say I work for the Air Force? ... at the Air Force? ... with the Air Force? In all these responses, something seems like its missing. Most military personnel I've heard would say, "I'm IN the Air Force; I'm IN the Army/Navy/Marines/Coast Guard." Why do we say this?

There's a not so subtle difference between the two perspectives. Working "for" someone implies a temporary state that believes when 4:30 p.m. arrives, if it isn't done, you can always do it tomorrow. Why should you work more than you have to? Unless you're on an hourly wage, you certainly aren't getting paid for it. It implies there's a limit to the perceived expectation. It's a contractual thing; a sense of "I'm going to do just what I'm paid to do and no more."

For those who reply they're working "at" a job, it implies you're focusing on a specific task, a specific time and place and that's what you're required to address. Again, this stresses limits to what is driving you, the perspective is that you are working for your own benefit, if others profit so be it.

Ok, now let's take a look at what being "IN" implies. According to AFPAM 36-2241 chapter 9, there aren't many jobs that require you to take an oath of personal commitment and ask you to abide by core values. It establishes a mindset that you're part of a collective that values valor, courage and sacrifice more than personal gain. It's part of the belief that expecting to go home when the end of the duty day rolls around may not be an option. More things can, and many times are, expected of all of us. The focus isn't on you, it's on the mission and everyone has a stake in it. Furthermore, as Airmen we have high expectations in our wingman that they will always be there to watch our back. Being "IN" requires more than just a creed, it requires commitment. It requires more than drive, it requires vision. It requires more than motivation, it may very well require your last full measure of devotion.

Next time you are out and about, I challenge you to ask someone what they do and think about their response. Then think about what your answer would be. How would being "IN" change your perspective? The question before you as a military professional isn't, "have you done your job?" or "have you made a profit?" The question is, "are you 'IN?'"