Former master sergeant adjusts to life officer life|
by Shawn J. Jones
514th Air Mobility Wing public affairs
4/22/2012 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- After 13 years of rendering salutes, one Freedom Wing Airman is receiving them now too.
On May 21, 2nd Lt. Melford Simpson, will complete his first year of serving as a commissioned medical service corps officer.
While he said he settling into his new position, he is still adjusting to the nuances of being an officer.
One significant change for Simpson was that he had to establish himself as a lieutenant at the 514th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, the same duty station where he had already risen to the rank of master sergeant. Simpson said he didn't want to give the impression that his new rank made him a better person, but he also knew that he couldn't act as casually as he once had amongst his enlisted co-workers.
He said he takes it as a personal responsibility and charge to behave as a professional officer.
"I have to assimilate to the culture," he said. Overall, Simpson said most of his former enlisted peers have been very supportive of his promotion. "It's a different dynamic, but I haven't felt any animosity or disdain," he said.
The jump in rank also meant that he would be spending a lot more time with the squadron's top leadership.
As a master sergeant, he was no stranger to serving in a leadership capacity, but now he was sitting in small meetings with them, discussing the squadron's big-picture issues.
"My very first meeting, I was so nervous, my hands were sweating," he said. "I didn't have the slightest idea what they were talking about."
Not only must Simpson assimilate to the culture, but he must meet his own self-imposed higher standard.
"I cannot fail," he said. "If I have to stay later or come in more frequently, I'll do what it takes."
Simpson certainly doesn't mind this culture shock, as he said he is humbled by his commission and it was one of his best accomplishments.
He said never forget the call notifying him of his selection to become a commissioned officer.
"My entire body, head to toe, trembled," he said. "Other than the birth of my daughter, it was the sweetest accomplishment. I was frozen. I just started thanking god."
When he first pinned on his lieutenant bars, he chose to do it front of an audience of his then-fellow enlisted peers.
"I broke down in front of my Airmen," he said. "But they weren't tears of sadness. They were tears of realization and testament that the impossible is possible."
For many of his colleagues, it was no surprise that he earned his commission.
"Lieutenant Simpson has always been a very focused Airman," said Chief Master Sgt. Chryl Ruff. "From the first day that he joined the squadron, he knew what he wanted to do and he allowed us to help him get there. Lieutenant Simpson has inspired us as an Airman, a noncommissioned officer and a senior noncommissioned officer, and I know he will continue to inspire us as an officer."
As the first year of his commission comes to a close, Simpson said its gone well and he's learned a few lessons, especially those related to taking care of his fellow Airmen.
"It is imperative that you not only find ways to be innovative but also be consistent and thoughtful of those you are leading," he said.