First impressions

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Michael J. Ostermann
  • 92nd Communications Squadron Superintendent
One of the oldest, most used and completely true adages is: "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression."

With all the distinguished visitors we see at Fairchild and the upcoming inspections in June, this is a good time to review this principle.

I remember a particular work center I once visited. They knew I was coming well in advance. I was excited to meet them and get a brief on their mission. As I walked in the door, the first thing I noticed was the dust. There was thick dust over everything - the cabinets, desks, computers, equipment, etc. I took about a second to decide what to do. I smiled and shook everyone's hands and chatted a bit.

Then I took the NCO in charge into his office. I told him he and his Airmen had one day to scrub the entire work center from top to bottom, informing him that I would be back the next day for another tour. I also instructed him that his work center would never, ever look this bad again. He and I had never met but that didn't matter. I had way too much experience as an inspector and pride as a prior communications maintenance technician to tolerate or ignore this. I couldn't, in my mind, fully trust him or his work center for quite a while after this incident. I even told our quality assurance team to pay special attention to all their programs as their attitude toward general cleanliness might be the tip of the iceberg. I was right.

I could tell you many stories like this. Why? What's the point? This isn't about NCOICs. It's about all Airmen - all of us. A professional inspector, inside or outside your organization, will usually draw unfavorable conclusions if your work area and/or your presence is unprofessional. That's before they've even looked at any of your programs! Right off the bat you've told them, without uttering a word, that you don't care. Clearly you don't care about excellence. True or not, that is the signal you have sent. Furthermore, your good (or bad) attitude, enthusiasm, courtesy and other admirable qualities are evident to most people after a short period of time. Chew on this as you prepare for the inspections coming our way.

Most of you knew where I was going with this article halfway through the second paragraph. You intuitively picked it up -- because you are professional Airmen.

If you are upset as you read this article, please think through your reaction to figure out why you are agitated. At least run a common sense check on my words.

With these words, I present to you an observation on major inspections. Air Mobility Command Staff Assistance Visit inspectors reiterated this during a recent out-brief to the wing.

We spend a tremendous amount of time and sweat preparing for inspections, and our stress level might get too high if we don't eat, exercise and rest properly. What sometimes happens is that once the inspection is underway we get careless, even frustrated, in a hurry. We just want it to be over with. If this begins to happen to you or those around you, take action to calm yourself and other folks down and get back on track. Pump each other up! The goal - a demonstration of our excellence to the inspection teams and the world - is just ahead and is in our hands.