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.

Whenever new students come to the Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee (very often), I hear faculty and leadership talking with them about dos and don’ts while on campus. They want to set expectations, they want newcomers to be successful, and they want them to get the most out of their experience. I have a role as a public affairs briefer, despite not teaching anything in the classroom. How will their stories unfold here? How will their actions in the community and with their cell phone cameras and social media while TDY become something more to me than a potential career-ending, wrong decision?

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. – A video news report from the Air Guard’s TEC-TV studios here recently shared one Airman’s story about a quick decision to help a stranger at a roadside accident outside the East Tennessee Smoky Mountains.

Despite the event occurring more than a year ago, Staff Sgt. Thomas Swanson, a public affairs specialist, produced the video while training in March with TEC-TV’s Production Branch and after hearing from others about Tech. Sgt. Jesse E. Ball’s compelling story.