Tops in Blue

  • Published
  • By Lieutenant Colonel Gary Gualano
  • Air Force Financial Services Center
A number of thoughts might cross your mind as your eyes passed over the subject line. The most likely I'd suppose, is of the Air Force's outstanding troupe of entertainers. It's also likely that if you've been associated with the Air Force for a while, you've had the opportunity to attend one of their shows; most recently here in Rapid City. When I ponder this incredible collection of fellow Airmen, what immediately jumps to mind is their excellence--technical, all ways I can think of really. They've represented a broad-spectrum of career-fields for nearly 60 years now, and have done so in a way that makes us notice.

So why write about the Tops-In-Blue? Well, I'm not, really. But, they are my inspiration for this piece. Admittedly, when my secretary's email reminded me I had an article to write for the base paper, I wasn't sure what to write about. Later that day when my family and I were sitting 10 rows back at their Civic Center witnessing yet another great Tops-In-Blue performance, it came to me. It was an idea I often think about and now had a chance to write about it. That is, what "magic" formula brings career success for some more than others--what makes this elite group of Airmen...well, elite?

In the case of the Tops-In-Blue, they're made up of very small numbers. Not everyone who auditions is picked to join. In the Air Force at large, not everyone who joins gets picked to be Airman of the Quarter, SrA Below-the-Zone, a DG from PME, or will supervise or Command Airmen. Why is this? I'll bet most of us know the answer. In part, it's a numbers game and not everyone can be #1. In part, if we're honest with ourselves and observant enough to see it, we know getting picked requires quality input. Namely, a great attitude, a desire to learn and grow both personally and professionally, a collaborative spirit, and brute force hard work that gets results. Oh, and good supervision is a must. After all, our success depends upon caring supervisors along the way; supervisors who nurture and encourage us, and point us in the right direction when we stray.

I've personally never viewed career success as a destination. Instead, it was only a gauge for how I was doing to that point, and where my focus needed to be to reach the next milestone. Each of us will view our career path differently, but it's easy to spot a stand-out Airmen on the right path. It's those things I mentioned earlier that are so telling. These individuals catch our eye as we traverse the corridors of our work centers. We can see they understand what they're doing and recognize that the potential for career success can continue, simply by repeating what they already do so well now. They're easy to spot by the extra bounce in their walk; the look of determination on their face; how sharply they present in uniform; how respectfully they greet authority and treat their fellow Airmen. Their outlook is always positive and attitude in check. And as we'd expect, they garner better results than their peers.

Most Airmen are doing what the Air Force had asked of them when they joined. No doubt, without them, the bigger mission doesn't get done. Only a fraction, however, are a clear cut above the rest. They're peddling faster than the masses and carrying our Air Force to an even higher level of excellence. They're never too busy to raise their hand when something doesn't look or feel right, or when they see the potential to improve a process or procedure. We're not surprised when they bend down to pick up trash as they pass because it's the right thing to do and they know it.

When we think of "Tops-In-Blue" we might think first of our "American ambassadors to the world." The Air Force's small, elite collection of performers who can always draw a smile and help us feel good about ourselves. Our relationship with them is symbiotic; they draw from our ranks and we (the greater Air Force) benefit as they represent us before the world. Not everyone can be a top notch entertainer. But, anyone can choose to be tops in blue. For this, there's no particular talent required. Only a desire to tap our potential and be the best Airman we can be. This is what I believe to be the "magic" formula that brings career success for some more than others. I also believe it's there for the taking for any of us. Only a small number, however, will dedicate all that's required to be "tops in blue."