Editor’s note: Commentary by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith. This is the sixth article in an ongoing series in which the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center staff and faculty share their perspectives and spark discussion about the organization’s lines of effort.

There are people in this world that I’ve never met that would stand unfulfilled in an extended handshake to me as well as there are strangers that I would risk my life protecting. In my face-to-face dealings with leaders, coworkers, people, and groups, gaining and giving my respect lies somewhere subjectively between those poles.

I believe that understanding respect is an introspective journey to how and why we value others, organizations, and ourselves. As they say in the office and on the battlefield, leaders cannot demand our respect; they must earn it through repeated actions that support our ideals.

The news drew excitement and pride from many in the Air Force last month, an announcement of finalists in the Spark Tank competition that collects innovative ideas from the Air Force major commands and selects the best at the headquarters level.

There were promotional videos on each idea, there was improving old processes with new technology, and there was improving new technology with old know-how, and amid the plans, there was a prevailing sentiment to strengthen our total Air Force.