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Choices

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- One of the guiding philosophies that I strive to achieve in my professional and personal life is to ensure that I always have choices.

I have found that the harder I work, the better the choices.

Anyone who has seen the movie Forrest Gump probably remembers the line "Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're going to get."

It's memorable because it is a simple phrase that rings true. We never know what life is going to send our way; however, it's always nice to have a choice in what we are going to do.

Pick a chocolate you don't like, throw it away and get another. Now, I know things aren't quite that easy in real life, but from my experience, our available choices are directly related to our performance and education.

I was once asked whether I have "favorites" as a commander. I will let you in on a secret, of course I have favorites and it isn't personality driven, it's performance driven. My top performers complete tasks correctly, on time and with minimal supervision. They know their job inside and out. They volunteer for both good and bad deals. They have loyalty, integrity, and a positive attitude.

They have more choices because of their performance.

They are competitive for weapons school, pilot training, competitive assignments and more. Maybe they don't want to do any of those things, but it is much better to have the choice versus the alternative - being told not to apply. The needs of the Air Force always come first and even the best performers are sometimes given an undesirable assignment or sent to a position they did not want, but in the end they finish on top. When high performance is combined with education, even more choices become available.

Education, whether it is completing your CDCs, college degree, or PME, opens doors. It enables assignment options, competitive job positions, and perhaps even a different career path. I remember thinking after graduating from college that it felt so good to be done. No more classes for me. I have never been more wrong about anything in my life. I have been continuously in some form of education for the last 18 years. When I first entered the Air Force in 1992, I attended navigator training at Mather Air Force Base. At that time, the Air Force was undergoing a serious reduction in force, and instructor navigators were particularly hard hit. Since I didn't think a bachelor's degree in political science and training as a navigator would make me particularly sought after in the civilian job sector, I decided to pursue an advanced degree in case the same ever happened to me. I was giving myself options for the future. As it turns out, I didn't need to use that degree as a civilian, but it still paid dividends in my active duty career.

For those that know they are going to make a career out of the Air Force, promotion and in-residence select statistics already tell the story; PME and civilian education matter. Maybe you have not decided on whether you are going to stay in the Air Force. Either way you should take advantage of every educational opportunity available, because in the end, no matter what your decision, you will have a better set of choices.

It is a simple formula: performance plus education equals better choices. Lucky for us, the Air Force provides ample opportunities for both. Utilize those opportunities. The Air Force will get a better educated high performer, and you will get a bigger box of chocolates.