We are grading diamonds

Lt. Col. Joseph Musacchia (U.S. Air Force photo)

Lt. Col. Joseph Musacchia (U.S. Air Force photo)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- The U. S. Air Force is going through a dramatic change and has been for the last 10 years. 

At the onset of my Air Force career, an officer could retire with 20 years as a major and I have personally retired staff sergeants with 20 years of service. Those are now things of the past. Our officer performance report and enlisted performance report evaluation systems are undergoing yet another revision in my 18-year career. I never contemplated when I was a young officer that when I became a commander, I would be racking and stacking every Airman in my unit, or I would have to look an Airman in the face and tell them they can no longer serve our nation due to budget restraints. But now, this is our reality.

I often tell friends and family that this is not the U.S. military of old times.  People still believe that you can enlist and "do your 20 years".  I correct them and let them know that we are not a draft military, we are downsizing, and it is either 'up or out'. I also let all of my first term Airmen know this when I speak to them during my newcomers briefing. Many think that it makes our job as leaders easier, and that it's not difficult to rack and stack our Airmen. This perception is the furthest from the truth. It makes our job even more challenging, especially with our new EPR system, particularly with the higher enlisted ranks. I told someone once that it is like grading diamonds. 

We are so blessed in our Air Force. I get the honor and privilege of leading the very best America has to offer. Our Airmen are truly a cut above the vast majority of America's population.  In the 'real world' as it is often called, an average Airman would stand head and shoulders above his peers, be it in age or education level.  Less than one percent of our population can pass our entrance standards, much less excel in the most demanding career field in our nation.

Grading the diamonds that make up our Airmen has truly been one of the most challenging aspects of my command experience. The Airmen I serve with are incredible in so many ways and often achieve what seems to be the impossible every day. 

However, I have also come to understand that although it is a challenge to make a decision between who is number one out of numerous amounts of NCOs, SNCOs, CGOs, etc., when the work and performance of these Airmen would be the envy of anyone in the civilian world, it is an honor. 

I am getting the opportunity to lead and work with the very best ... they are our nation's diamonds.