Recognition comes in many forms

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Recognition, it seems, is what we are all after. Survey after survey tells us many of our Airmen feel they are not being recognized. It's a widespread concern across all ranks, and it has been that way for years. How then do we deal with this issue, and why has it not yet been fixed?

There are two primary forms of recognition. The first variety is the formal recognition programs we are all very familiar with. These include the quarterly and annual awards programs, Lance P. Sijan, and the many other Air Force specialty code and job specific programs. The second type is the informal praise and gratitude we can articulate to our Airmen everyday.

In recent years, the number of award programs has continued to expand. The formal award programs do a great job in recognizing our people by celebrating their accomplishments in a grand manner. The number of people actually recognized, however, is small. In fact, we probably recognize less than 10 percent of our people with various formal awards. How then do we recognize the remaining people? The answer can be found by looking at the core of the men and women who make up the United States Air Force.

These individuals do a fantastic job for us each and every day. They come to work on time, put in an honest day's or night's work (often well over an eight-hour shift) and present a superior image of the U.S. Air Force.

Recognition for these "everyday superstars," most often overlooked by the formal recognition program, is not as difficult as it might seem. All we need to do is personally recognize our Airmen and their accomplishments.

The officers and senior noncommissioned officers can implement the solution by walking their areas and thanking the people who toil every day without formal recognition. Frontline supervisors also play an important role; these are the young noncommissioned officers and recent Airmen Leadership School graduates who supervise people daily.

We all need to take the time to thank our people for working in the 110-degree heat for 12 hours. Putting them in for a quarterly award is good, so is shaking their hand and simply saying, "Thanks for what you did today," or "I'm really proud of how you completed this task." How is that for recognition!

Looking back on my own career, the recognition that stands out the most in my mind involves my boss telling me very specifically what I had done well, or that he was proud of what I had accomplished. A personal thank you for a job well done takes so little time, but the return is immeasurable.

We must do a better job recognizing the 90 percent of our Air Force who will never win or even be nominated for an award. Each day they continue to patrol our gates, fix the air conditioning, fly our aircraft and keep the jets flying.

This elusive 90 percent performs most of the work in our Air Force, and we owe it to them to take the time to find a personal way to let them know we appreciate their efforts.

This means all supervisors at all levels; from commanders to the most junior staff sergeants here, should take the time to say thanks to our people as they do their job well.

The formal recognition program is one way of recognizing our people, but the vast explosion in the number of awards has not diminished the call for more recognition.

I strongly believe the best form of recognition is the time we spend with our Airmen valuing them, letting them know we notice their hard work. With some effort this may help to reduce the number of people who feel they are not properly recognized.