Reputation over Decoration

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. William D. Heuck
  • Commander, 5th Support Launch Squadron
Many years ago I was the executive officer for a 620-person squadron. I recall that while there were "quarterly awards" and several other regular opportunities for recognition, there did not seem to be the plethora of individual and group accolades that are available today.

These days it seems every week brings a call for nominees to compete for another award, with varied and inclusive categories, criteria and levels of seniority. I have even heard it suggested that the squadron should generate certificates to give out on a frequent basis to augment the available awards, and better recognize our members. Do we all really need a steady flow of awards to fuel "excellence in all we do?"

It is certainly important to recognize superior performance, and we all want to know that our contributions are appreciated. But surely there is some basic level of quality expected from all of us that we can simply characterize as "it's my duty" and leave it at that.

Warning! Be wary of chasing awards. It is far better to use our strength on the mission and follow George C. Marshall's advice: "There is no limit to the good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit." A lieutenant for 14 years, his impeccable reputation and internally driven performance resulted in 5 Stars on his uniform, and eventual appointment as Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State.

As a squadron commander who signs off on performance reports, I can confirm that no number of awards makes up for mediocre performance, consistent lack of good judgment, self-serving behavior, or a failed mission. The quality of the official record is directly related to the quality of the work...not the decorations on the wall.

Awards on paper only matter to those who do not know us. The wingman standing at my side knows if I can really be counted on to support the mission and the team. "If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself."--George S. Patton.