22 May 2011

It's no secret

It's no secret that this was a really tough week in a lot of ways. In fact, I can't remember feeling this mentally drained in a very long time...but at the same time, I can't remember the last time I felt like I made this much of a difference.

I have three incredible professional mentors in my life, and how they came to be is nothing short of amazing. First there is my best friend from high school who is now a Navy helicopter pilot (in California), then my former boss from Spangdahlem and career Air Force F-16 pilot (in DC), and then an Army infantry officer and Ranger who I met here a few weeks ago (headed to Iraq) and wouldn't trade for the world. My favorite thing about all of them...they just "get it." Oh, and they give incredible advice, so if I can't get through this deployment with three smart people from three different services all on my side, well, there is no hope for me.

But let's get back to talking about this week. Tough start. Tuesday was one of the toughest days I've had in the military. Too many people betting that I can't do it (because I'm a girl). Too many guys spreading awful and untrue rumors about me (grow up already), and after a while, me starting to think that everyone else was right and that I am not suppose to be here.

I had a great four hour conversation with Rangerboy one evening, and I tell you what, it was like a switch flipped in my brain. We talked about all kinds of stuff...families, leadership, things I need to think about when I head to Afghanistan, and all kinds of great ways to get smarter in the four weeks I have left here. But the best advice he gave me that night is probably the smartest thing anyone in the military has ever said to me..."Stop trying to prove yourself and just BE yourself."

Good idea. So the next day I tried that, and it worked. Perfectly. There are probably four guys here who I would take with me any time, anywhere. And like all of us, these guys are looking for leadership. They're also incredible...they just "get it." And I will do anything for people who "get it." I pulled one of them over to my "office" (a set of stairs...since there is NO privacy here) and we had a 30 minute talk about how it's time for him to get his head in the game here. He's been deployed two other times, he's been on convoys, and I told him exactly what I thought of him...there is no one I would rather take with me on the road, but I need you to take these classes seriously. Next day it was like a switch flipped for him. And he is acting like the total rockstar I thought he would be.

Last night I had a great conversation with another NCO (another of my guys...we will call him Tattoo) who has been in for 12 years. In those 12 years, no officer has ever taken him under their wing. Why...I have no clue. He's another of the guys who totally "gets" it. So he and I spend hours and hours together talking about leadership and Airmanship and ways to make a difference. And I tell you what, watching him grow over the past 6 weeks has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Rangerboy has this week's lesson spot-on. I don't have anything to prove here. My goal is to absolutely kick ass at the things I'm good at (like leading) and to become proficient at the things I've never seen before. And the point of all of this training is to BE myself. So at the end of this week I finally showed the guys who I really am. And for a few of them, I think that made all the difference.

Leading is never easy, but wow, if I can leave training having an impact on 2 or 3 Airmen, wow, I'll call that success any day of the week.

This week is on the firing range...here...we...go...