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  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. John Alsvig
  • 35th Fighter Wing

One of the first few lessons I learned in life was on quality, communication and leadership.  All were centered on a walkie-talkie gift I received when I was around six years old.

Transformers were big when I was growing up, and I remember seeing an “Optimus Prime” Walkie Talkie for sale at a local toy store for the “discount” price of around $12.99.  After some begging, pleading and pouting my parents reluctantly made the purchase and I was the happiest kid in the world … for a few more hours.

After tearing through the packaging and fumbling with the 9-volt battery install, my Dad and I found ourselves on opposite ends of our apartment ready to start “communicating” by way of Optimus Prime’s hi-tech circuitry.  I remember keying the button and getting nothing but static.  We changed rooms, moved closer, and still static.  We then made our way into two adjoining rooms and leaned up against the wall and tried again.  I could now faintly hear my Dad trying to ask me something that sounded like an early version of “Can you hear me now?” When I replied, I didn’t get an answer, or if I did, I couldn’t make it out.  After about 30 minutes (and draining the 9-volt battery during the process), I gave up, my attention span was gone, and the walkie-talkies sat on the bottom of my closet for a few years before getting tossed out.

Lesson 1 “Quality” – You get what you pay for or you get what you put into something.  Let’s face it; my parents didn’t purchase $3K Motorola Land Mobile Radios or “bricks” as they are affectionately known.  If we had a set of Air Force issued bricks, you could hear a pin drop.  Money matters aside, are you putting 100% into your day to day duties?  Or are you putting in $12.99?  Your true quality will show with your superiors and subordinates alike.

Lesson 2 “Communication” – Even with all the latest and greatest ways to communicate, i.e., texting, cell phones, email, instant messaging, social networking, have we really found a way to replace face-to-face communication?   How many times is your message or tone lost in electronic translation or transmission?  The best communication I had that day was at the dinner table, with my Dad, eyeball to eyeball.

Lesson 3 “Leadership” – This is a stretch … work with me on this one.  True leaders walk the “walk” and talk the “talk.”  Like I said, this is a stretch.  Don’t adopt the “do as I say, not as I do” style of leadership.  Your credibility will be lost, and your mission will suffer.  Challenge your Airmen to be their best.  Be the leader who jumps out in front and gets the job done.  Set the example in actions and word choice.  This is the purest form of integrity when done correctly, and the Air Force’s greatest asset in our current times.

A $12.99 purchase from a toy store turned out to be a priceless lesson in life for me.