Should I volunteer?

  • Published
  • By CMSgt Robert Austin
  • Command Chief, 97 Air Mobility Wing
Have you ever heard someone say, "It shouldn't matter if I volunteer for stuff? What's important is that I do my job instead of running around volunteering for everything."
This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to some of our outstanding young Airmen. We found ourselves in a discussion about how some Airmen spend time away from their duty sections volunteering for projects and organizations. A couple of the Airmen said they resented this because it left them with more of a workload to cover. It was also apparent that some had an issue with the emphasis put on volunteer work for quarterly awards and below the zone promotions.

So, why is volunteering important? Should volunteering be encouraged at all? Many things happen on Air Force bases because of volunteers. Event planners rely on volunteers to help coordinate, setup and run functions. Honor Guard volunteers allow ceremonial honors to be given when appropriate. Professional organizations afford opportunities for networking and improving conditions thanks to involved volunteers. Roads, parks and playgrounds are kept clean because of volunteers. Many youth activities and sports exist solely because of volunteer Airmen.

Additionally, volunteers help build relationships with local communities. I'm sure most of you have heard of Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. Both are extremely worthwhile organizations and are dependent upon volunteer support. Air Force members generally donate hundreds of hours to assist with these and other causes. Air Force members are often involved in their local communities through school boards, cleanup projects and coaching sports.

Because of this relationship, numerous local communities offer various programs for military personnel. I have been to several bases where the downtown community actively supported, appreciated and welcomed Airmen. Various gifts and prizes are donated by local businesses to military awards programs. Discount tickets and special appreciation days are standard fare in some areas.

Granted, we are not in the military to be professional volunteers, we have a mission to do. But there are many organizations, functions and relationships that would not exist if Airmen didn't volunteer. Hopefully, our supervisors are doing what they can to support those Airmen who desire to volunteer. Even if you don't have time to break away from your demanding work schedule, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities on the weekends. If you're concerned about your family time when you are away from work, find an avenue to volunteer where your family can participate as well. For me, it is all about finding an opportunity to volunteer to fulfill the desire to serve others. It is a passion of mine and if you were to find your passion, volunteering becomes easy.

When you understand the value of volunteering, the excuses don't seem to hold water. So, the next time you hear someone say that it doesn't matter if they volunteer, just reply "Don't hate...participate."