Force management: What’s your label?

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- It's not every day you find out your career might be over in the next several months.

It doesn't matter your rank, age or occupation, getting this information can make you feel betrayed, angry, scared, worried, or maybe even hopeful and excited. So, for those of you on the chopping block, what's your label?

Mine? Take your pick -- annoyed, worried, upset and any other negative emotion one can muster. I've been through force management before, and from a personal perspective, there is absolutely nothing good about this process. Yes, the service will ultimately save money with a smaller force, but does that make any Airman about to lose his or her job feel better?

After a vent session with the family, I looked back and realized a few things. First, being emotional does nothing to change my chances of staying in the military. My advice to people who are feeling this way -- shake it off; it's not helping you.

Second, I discovered there are elements I can control. After an honest look at my past performance, I realized my records may not be perfect compared to other Airmen, and I had to accept the fact that I may not be in the Air Force much longer. So I looked up jobs in the civilian world, and I identified where I could live based on those jobs. I calculated how long I can sustain rent, car payments and basic services while continuing to take care of my family.

Then I prepared my own file on force management. I'll admit I initially visited the myPers website over and over again not to gather information, but to wait and hope that those eligible numbers would drop and my Air Force Specialty Code would be safe.

When that didn't happen, I downloaded and read a ridiculously long document that explained my force management board program in detail. It was nearly 40 pages long, but tell me this -- how will you be ready for what the future holds if you don't read and understand the basic information? Go through your program's Personnel Services Delivery Memorandum, or PSDM, and highlight action items and deadlines; take hold of what you can control.

Third, after the amazingly long and not-so fascinating PSDM read, I checked out voluntary separation options and talked things over with my supervisor, mentors and family. I gathered all of my performance reports, decorations and physical training record. I even drafted my own retention recommendation form. Do I trust that my supervisor will do these things? Of course; any good supervisor will. However, I feel in control by organizing and preparing this paper work ahead of time.

Finally, and probably most importantly, I made a conscious effort to shake off all the emotional labels attached to force management. I refocused my sights on preparing for the future and appreciating the past. I look back over my career, and realize that I've traveled to incredible places and worked with amazing people. I've had phenomenal mentors and perhaps positively influenced incredible Airmen. I am grateful for my time in the Air Force and the chances I've had to support and serve others, and I'm ready for force management. Bottom line -- I'm no longer angry, upset or worried. For now, just label me an Airman.