ROAD to finishing STRONG

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. James Garcia
  • 9th Special Operations Squadron
Retired On Active Duty, or ROAD, is a term Airmen have used for many years. It means going through your final months with little or no effort.

During permanent changes of station, "short" is the term used. Both mean you are checked out.

I've seen it and been guilty of it.

I recently attended Hurlburt Field's Enlisted Personnel Development Course, which is designed to sharpen junior NCO skills, re-energize their spirit and instill ownership.

My first thought was, "Why do I need to go to this?"

I've been in the Air Force 19 years and have already been approved to retire.

"This was clearly a misunderstanding," I thought. "Why would anyone waste a slot and money on sending me?"

I put up a fight. I pleaded my case. But, I was pretty much told, "Shut up and color."

I showed up thinking I could just zone out because it was a wasted day. I was on ROAD status.

Although I have proven time and time again I'm an experienced operator, my leadership verbally slapped me in the face by telling me I'm not on my game.

"I need to step it up," they said.

I had a few choice thoughts, none of which I will speak or write.

However, I continued to hear we were all chosen because our leadership thought we were worth this push or adjustment.

Then, the inner voices came into play.

"You have been slacking lately, but you are retiring," I said to myself. "Your team needs you; then again, you've done your time."

Finally I thought, "You are still an NCO."

Decision made.

I continued the mentoring sessions on what the Air Force meant upon graduating basic training and how I felt now. I kept thinking about a sense of ownership and belonging to something bigger than myself.

Although I've had many ups and downs in my career, I've pushed through and persevered. I made it to what many thought I couldn't: retirement.

Now, during my last year on active duty, I can say, "Yes, I have checked out."

That was not the right approach.

I owed it to my team, subordinates and myself to finish strong.

I needed to come in to work with the mindset, "I will be here tomorrow, the next day, next month, next year, because I'm still an NCO and have a job to do. There are Airmen I need to teach and lead. And, I still have more to give and even more to learn."

I want to thank my leadership and the instructors for a productive day of mentorship. I recommend the course to anyone who may have lost their way.

There are many technical skills I've learned in the Air Force, but none greater than teamwork, followership and leadership. I will take these skills and the Air Force core values with me to the civilian side. I will finish my career Smart, Trained, Resilient, Open-minded, Noble and Great.

I will finish STRONG.