Do your job: The key to mission success

  • Published
  • By Col. Richard Martin Jr., 423rd Air Base Group commander

“Do your job.” This simple, three-word phrase resonates among New England sports fans and simplistically defines a sports team’s winning approach that, over a 20-year span, has featured 10 Super Bowl appearances and 6 championships.  Of course, I am referring to the New England Patriots and, admittedly, likely just lost most of my audience! But, while it is easy to dislike franchises that win as much as the Patriots (J), I ask you to read on. We can learn much from their winning formula and apply it to something much more important than an overhyped Sunday victory.

For me, Coach Bill Belichick’s ask of his players, “Do your job…take care of your responsibility and just do it right,” succinctly defines what is expected of us as Airmen (uniformed and civilian) as we collectively seek victory (mission success) in a game we cannot lose. And, to be fair, while this is an easy ask, it is certainly not a simple task. This is because, as Airmen, we do not have jobs; rather, we belong to a proud profession which places myriad demands on each of us. Whether it be our primary role, additional duties, training and professional development, self-care, wingman and off-duty responsibilities, etc., the proverbial “job jar” is overflowing. But, no matter how difficult and numerous the task(s), the expectation is always clear…take care of your responsibilities and do it right.

Distilling the “Do Your Job” expectation down a bit further, I offer the following for consideration:

  • It is all about winning. The Patriots organization and its players are focused on one thing, winning championships. In the same light, as Airmen, we focus all of our efforts towards achieving our assigned missions, recognizing specific contributions feed into overall mission success.  
  • Team first, both on- and off-duty. The Patriots benched a star player for the Super Bowl due to his failure to put the team first. His priorities were misaligned and he inexcusably missed a team meeting.  Likewise, the Air Force demands its Airmen put the mission ahead of self, as codified in the Service before Self core value.
  • Complete your assignments and execute to the best of your abilities. Critical in any sport, players are expected to complete their assigned tasks. The collective contributions of each player to a win or loss is what makes team sports awesome. Similarly, the Air Force is a team effort. Whether your task is to make a café latte at The Grind, stand sentry at one of our gates, draw blood in the lab, configure a network node, etc., we are all expected to carry out our assigned duties properly and professionally. And, we must recognize, failure to do so, no matter the task, has a ripple effect across our entire mission set. It is paramount that we hold ourselves and each other accountable and trust our teammates to meet this mark of excellence.
  • Maximize talent and next player up. The Patriots have made a name for themselves capitalizing on talent passed by other teams and utilizing players in multiple positions. The Pathfinder community often takes a similar approach. Our units are small, with many one-deep positions. We must always be ready to step up and take on other responsibilities, even if outside our comfort zone. And, we do not draft our teammates. It is part of our job to welcome every new member, capitalize on their unique experiences and talents, and develop them into high-performing members of our team. Finally, it is within our “job jar” to make self-care a priority, including physical fitness and mental well-being, in order to maximize mission readiness. Overall, we must remain adaptive, flexible, and resilient.
  • Do what it takes to win. Okay, haters, I am not encouraging Airmen to cheat, even if the Patriots have pushed the bounds of the rulebook. However, our Airmen must be willing to innovate and take risk to address the growing mismatch between resources and demands placed on our force. Now more than ever, Airmen are being asked to question archaic rules, propose new solutions, and push the boundaries to do things smarter.  
  • Always have fun. While certainly not always apparent, Coach Belichick expects his players to have fun, but only up until it gets in the way of winning. Similarly, no matter how tough the duty or long the day, Airmen should take time to laugh, find joy in each day, and appreciate the comradery and friendships that comes with military service – so long as it does not detract from accomplishing the mission.

Make no mistake, the demands of duty and consequences of failure for Airmen extend well beyond anything experienced by a professional sports team. Case in point, the Patriots missed the playoffs this season, primarily for failing to maximize talent and carry out assigned tasks, but it simply meant an early start to the offseason and an opportunity to try again next year. Airmen do not have that luxury. No matter your role, you contribute to missions that directly support vital national security objectives and, ultimately, can mean the difference between life and death to our teammates, allies, and partners. Put bluntly, our reality is not a game. This makes doing our job, taking care of our responsibilities, and always doing it right ever so critical.