Selling Altus

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Ronald L. McAtee
  • Command Chief, 97th Medical Group
I want you to think back to the time you were notified that you had an assignment to Altus AFB, Okla. What happened next was probably the same or similar to what most experience once they are notified of a PCS move here and others find out about it - you probably wanted more information about where you were headed. What you got was something different. If it was anything like what I experienced and heard from most others, it went something like this: "You're going to Altus? Who did you tick off?" or "You must have really messed up." Maybe you even heard "Somebody must really hate you or be out to get you" or "Are you going to retire instead?" I heard many more, and even worse comments, but I'm not going to go on. You get the picture. I don't know about you, but I actually asked some of the folks making these comments if they had ever been stationed at Altus. Without fail, the answer was "no." This led me to ask myself: "Why, if you haven't even been there, would you tell me all these negative things?"

Each military base has its own reputation and it gets passed along as fact by people who may have no idea. For that reason, many Airmen come here kicking and screaming, even shedding some tears trying not to come to Altus. But they leave here with a much different attitude. Often they leave scratching and clawing to find ways to stay here longer. They end up loving Altus and wishing they didn't have to move on. What changed their opinion? And even more importantly, why is that part of the message not getting out to the Air Force as a whole?

So what did change? I'll tell you: it's the first-hand experiences and advantages Altus has to offer. Let's face it, the Air Force is busy these days and we are stretched thin with less manning and higher deployment rates. Somehow though, I think there is an ability to find predictability most of the time here. And with predictability comes the ability to plan, allowing balance in our lives: balance between working hard to accomplish the mission, time with family, self-improvement with higher education, playing hard, and anything else that might be important to you. But what other advantages are there, you ask? How about opportunities: opportunities to lead shops, often times at lower ranks than other bases and opportunities to volunteer for unit or wing projects. These are opportunities to step up and make a difference. Instead of being a little fish in a big pond, you can more readily become a bigger fish in a little pond, which presents opportunities for more responsibilities and experiences earlier in your career.

I'll tell you what else changed: we all have experienced the great relationship Altus AFB has with the community and leaders of the city of Altus. I've been doing this gig for nearly 28 years and the way this community welcomes us into it, makes us part of it, and the connection and collaboration between the city and base are second to no other place I've ever been stationed. This truly is a great place to live and work. The people are kind, engaging and want us among them. That just doesn't happen everywhere.

So I ask again, "Why is that part of the message not getting out to the AF as a whole?" We all need to sell Altus as a great assignment. It starts with the sponsors we assign, making sure they are talking about the great opportunities that are here and making a great first impression. I think we all need to talk about the positive aspects of Altus when we are TDY at conferences or schools. Any opportunity I get at a major command teleconference or temporary duty, I talk about what a great assignment this is. I let people know that much of what they hear is off target.

Why is this important to us? It's important that our new Airmen are coming to us with a desire to be here and wanting to be part of the Altus AFB team. I don't want us to have to combat all the negative nonsense if we can easily reduce it. We may not change it all, but I am convinced we can make a difference on the perception and reputation Altus AFB has Air Force-wide.

I am now preparing to leave Altus after 3.5 years and I'm going to miss it here. I've loved my time here and would do it again in a heartbeat. If I could stay, I would. I'm scratching and clawing. So while you're stationed here, make the most of your time. Work hard, make a difference and spread the good word!