The four Ms: keys to success as an Airman

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- I tried to think back to when I was a brand new Airman at my first duty station in Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. Looking back, there are things I wish someone had told me. 

With this, I want to share with you what I call the four Ms in hopes that they will assist new Airmen in being successful in your career -- map, motivation, a mentor and a mirror. 

Let's start with the map. 

Although your careers in the Air Force have just begun, now is the time to set some goals for yourself -- personal and professional goals. 

We all know what a map is, but how do you use it effectively? 

According to Dr. Richard Huseman, the author of several books on leadership, to use a map, you have to know three things: where you are, where you want to go and what it will take to get you there. 

By creating a map, you will clearly see where you are and where you want to be as well as the numerous routes you can take to get there. 

There are organizations on base that can help you with your career path such as the education center, career enhancement section of the Military Personnel Flight or talk to the base career assistance advisor. 

Once you discovered the best route, there is something else that will be essential to setting your plan in motion, which brings us to the second M -- motivation. 

Without motivation, no plan will succeed. You must have the will and drive to put any plan into motion. 

Individuals are motivated in different ways. Some people are motivated when 
surrounded by other motivated people, while others are intrinsically motivated, meaning they are motivated by something deep within themselves. 

Motivated people take the initiative to get things done, take that extra hour to ensure their dress and appearance is flawless, take responsibility for their career and doesn't wait for someone else to make every decision for them. 

Motivation can spread like wildfire throughout an organization. I encourage you to be the person who lit the initial spark. 

The third M is mentor. Mentors can help you accomplish your goals for your career. I have been blessed in my career to have a handful of strong mentors. 

I can turn to them when faced with challenging situations on the job, feeling insecure about the route I have chosen on my map or when needing good old-fashioned advice about career progression. 

I must be honest with you; it can also mean having to hear your baby is ugly when your baby is ugly. 

When I think of a good mentor, it reminds me of my group superintendent when I was stationed in Andrews Air Force Base, Md. His name is retired Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Armagon. 

Throughout my five year tenure, he constantly stayed involved in my career progression. We would meet periodically and he would ask about the training I received. He wanted to know if I felt I was being challenged in that duty section. 

Whenever the challenge was gone, chief quickly facilitated a rotation for me to go to section that would allow me to spread my wings even further. 

I encourage each and every one of you to seek out a good mentor. They don't have to be in your unit or your career field, just someone who you think you can respect and trust not to lead you astray and most importantly, someone who leads by example. 

This brings us to the fourth and final M that closes the loop on setting yourself up for success -- the mirror. 

When I mention mirror, I am actually talking about one of the Air Force's core values -- integrity first. Integrity is doing what you are supposed to, even when you think no one is watching, although at least one person always is. 

You should get to the point where you can look at yourself and feel rest assured that you are doing the right thing, and that you are giving your very best effort to every initiative in which you are involved beginning with understanding your piece and effectively accomplishing our Air Force mission. 

Ultimately that became our primary focus from the moment we raised our hand and took our oath. 

I challenge each Airman to incorporate the four Ms, which have made me successful thus far in my career. Starting with making a map of where you are, where you want to go and determine how you are going to get there. 

Be intrinsically motivated. Take charge of your career. Find a good mentor. And last but certainly not least, pass the mirror test. Exude a high level of integrity because it will take you a long way.