H2N2: The Decade’s Next Big Thing

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Atticus C. Smith
  • 388th Fighter Wing command chief
As decades end, people can often easily recount major events that happened. If asked to recall events from the past decade many people might respond with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, electing President Obama or the capture of Saddam Hussein. Some people may even recount the global outbreak of H1N1, often referred to as "swine flu." For many, many months you couldn't read a newspaper or turn on a television without coverage of H1N1. As we start a new decade, I'd like to feed of that popularity and launch an outbreak of H2N2. There's no need to take precautionary measures to prevent the spread, it's my hope that many people will be infected especially our Airmen.

Although H2N2 is an actual subtype of the influenza virus, the virus I'm referring to won't cause harm; on the contrary, it will only help those who are infected. The sooner our Airmen catch H2N2 the better. The H2N2 strain consists of: Honesty, Heart, Nerve and Nurture.

Being honest with oneself and others creates a foundation of trust within any organization. Airmen at all levels must openly express their strengths and weaknesses. It's only at this point where we can build off people's strengths and help them with their weaknesses. Honesty also means telling it like it is. As the old adage goes, if the baby's ugly, then the baby's ugly! We can't afford to "sugar coat" problems or issues and present them in a better light than they truly are. Direct, open and honest feedback, honest performance evaluations and honest answers will engender trust, build stronger teams and set the stage for heartfelt success.

Having heart is all about belief in yourself, belief in your team and to never falter or quit no matter what obstacles you encounter. Many of our prisoners of war had heart, their will and steely determination enabled them to endure months if not years of maltreatment which provided the edge for them to return with honor. We often see professional sports teams with heart; teams down by many points in the last quarter only to rally and achieve the 'W' (win). Also inspirational, are people who are given the near impossible job or mission. Sure it would be easy to focus on everything working against them and say it can't be done but they don't. They focus on how it can happen, how to achieve the 'W'. Each example displays heart, the internal strength and attitude that fuels people to overcome odds. Airmen must have the heart of a champion, and being of championship caliber takes nerve.

The pressures and demands of leadership can be overwhelming; it can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. A strong character trait of leadership is nerve: the guts, spirit and courage. Leaders must remain steadfast in times of crisis. They must be able to say no when everyone else is saying yes. Leaders must be comfortable being the lone person on the island, leading their people through unpopular situations or decisions. Leaders with nerve accept responsibility when something is their fault. They also have the internal strength to seek assistance when life's challenges seem overwhelming. Leaders must be willing to relieve a person of their duties if they prove incapable or cross a moral boundary. Finally, nerve entails creating a habit to break out of your comfort zone to face things you fear the most. Although all of this creates a very stoic demeanor, a leader must also have a soft side.

Dictionaries use words like feed, protect, encourage, train and educate to describe the word nurture. Leaders realize these same words apply to their relationship with the people who follow them. Leaders shouldn't view subordinates merely as a means to an end. Leaders should view their people as someone they need to grow, mentor, mold and develop which must include the willingness to discipline and enforce standards. It takes great love and patience much like the relationship a mother has with a child, with the ultimate goal of raising a person with a strong moral and ethical foundation. Professionally speaking, Airmen must mature as they progress to higher levels, and leaders must ensure maturity levels are in line with institutional expectations. As each day passes, leaders must be able to defend how they have nurtured the future generation of leaders.

Bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.
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