Our Reputation – The Only Thing We Really Own

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Wendi McLean
  • 141st Medical Group superintendent
According to Warren Buffet, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."

A wise colonel once told me that, as NCOs, we do not really own anything except our reputations. We do not own the airplanes we fix, the Airmen we train or the bank account that pays the Air Force's bills, yet every day we sign documents stating that we have fixed the airplane correctly, that the Airman can do the task for which they were trained and that the Air Force's money was spent with integrity.

It is impossible for a leader to do all the leg work and research required for each and every piece of paper that crosses their desk. A leader must rely on the rest of us to present them with documents that are accurate, timely and won't land them in jail. When a leader signs off on a document prepared by an NCO, it is a transaction of trust.

In the Air Force, we don't usually have 20 years to build a reputation with our leaders or our co-workers. We kind of come with a ready-made reputation based on our rank and our skill level, but it only takes one falsified document or a lack of due diligence to tarnish our reputation and ruin that transaction of trust we have with our leaders. Once we lose our ready-made reputation, we may not have the time required to rebuild our leader's confidence in us.

If we own nothing but our reputations and we lose that reputation, we are bankrupt. As NCOs, we must be careful that when we say the airplane is fixed correctly, the Airman can do the task as trained or the Air Force's money has been spent with integrity, that it is, without a doubt, a true statement.