The five-tool Airman


In the major leagues of baseball, the ideal position player is an athlete who excels at hitting for average consistently, hitting for explosive power, and has speed, arm strength, and fielding.

Can we superimpose this concept onto the ideal Airman?  I submit to you that we can. 

As Enlisted Force Distribution takes its place alongside the subjective and at times nebulous officer Management Level Review process, defining distinguishable skill-sets will become increasingly important. In other words, what do you bring to the fight?

Let’s take hitting for average as an example. In baseball, parlance means you are successful getting a hit 30 percent of the time. Seems like a low threshold but if you consider the average major league pitcher can hurl a baseball upward of 90 mph making it spin and move along the way then it’s easier to appreciate the degree of difficulty involved. Air Force members face no less challenges in garrison or deployed considering the barriers we overcome on a daily basis.

How about hitting for power? Again in baseball terms, it’s about exerting maximum force at a decisive time and point to reverse the trajectory of that pitch and send it high and far over a barrier, otherwise known as a fence. Have you been known to do the same with challenges hurled at you 90 mph from various angles of attack? Suffice to say perhaps not always, but demonstrating you have the potential to do so makes you an invaluable team member to have.

What about the speed at which you work? On-time and on-target or “late to need?” Baseball players blessed with great speed are disruptive forces to be reckoned with. Not only can you get to more bases and take more risk but you can upset your opponents’ equilibrium and ability to concentrate and create more advantages for your team. This concept is no less important for Airmen in all facets of the Air Force mission. Air power and all those actions in support of it, are inherently offensive. It’s about who can get there the fastest with the “most-est.”

Arm strength in baseball is another team-multiplier. Airmen can consider this the quality component of the products we produce; simply put, to cover great distances with accuracy and speed.  In a baseball setting, arm strength works to counteract and regulate the speed an opponent might have. In our case, “arm strength” can be defined as the ability to produce many things without compromising accuracy and it is an exponential force multiplier.

Lastly, there is fielding. Can you play your position and do it well enough not to be a team liability? For our purposes let’s consider it like this, do you know your job? Whether you are a cook, a baker or a candlestick maker do you have that area on “lock-down” for excellence? Dr. Martin Luther King was quoted stating, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”

In summary I simply ask, are you a five-tool Airman? In the majors leagues five-tool players are in high demand and virtually name their salary. In many ways, you can too, It all begins with what you believe and as Muhammad Ali put it, “if my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”