Yesterday I discussed why my first additional duty in the Air Force, being a Snack-O, turned out to be one of the most important duties at the squadron level. And, being “So Good they can’t Ignore You” at this job was a stage setter for my career and in understanding leadership.
But the irony is that Snack-O isn’t just a Lieutenant Job. Ten years later, as a major, I landed my first staff position at the Pentagon. In a typical pilot career, the pilot spends about two years in training programs followed by a three year assignment in a front-line or combat role. After that, historically, the pilot would then be assigned an “ALFA” tour (ATC, LIFT, FAC, or ALO). The acronym meant return as an instructor pilot, fly as a forward air controller or work as an air logistics officer for the Army. A few lucky souls were allowed to stay flying combat jets and would compete to attend fighter weapons school.
After your ALFA tour you would return as a senior Captain to the combat squadron in positions of mid-level leadership. When promoted to major, you might attend a year-long University level program at one of the Command schools. For me, I attended Air Force Air Command and Staff College to broaden my perspective beyond flying and was then sent to the staff at the Pentagon.
My first job at the Pentagon was Foreign Military Sales in the Saudi Arabia division. I was responsible for supporting the “Peace Sun IX” program which had sold the Saudi Arabian Air Force 72 F-15E aircraft and all of the other support, logistical and combat equipment.
As the youngest field grade officer and only pilot, my division director (Colonel McIntosh) asked me to join him one early morning at the Coffee machine.
“Major Powell, when I arrived this morning, there was no coffee ready.” the Colonel said matter-of-factly.
“Sir, I don’t drink coffee,” realizing my mouth was quicker than my brain.
“Major Powell, I don’t think I asked you if you drink coffee; let me show you how to make coffee right so it is ready in the morning so we can get right to work.” – he noted in perfect slow intonation.
He then opened the Foldger’s Can, grabbed the coffee spoon and said; “Now watch me carefully … one, two, three, four scoops.” As he put FIVE scoops in the filter.
I looked at him and he stared at me. Got it, I noted he put five scoops and then I responded “I get it, you put four scoops in the filter.”
He said, “Lucky (my callsign), you are a fast learner! And, now that you are oriented, fill the Snack-Bar.”
“Yes sir, and understood I had another opportunity to shine as the division Snack-O.”
Cheers – Pierre