AGADEZ, Niger --
One deployed Airman from Nigerien Air Base 201 speaks out to Airmen about how he doesn’t use his skin color as a justification for not reaching his goals in the military. Instead, he uses a “hard knock life” mentality to mentor his Airmen, regardless of their skin color, gender, or social upbringing, to work hard for what they want in their careers.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Isidor, 822nd Expeditionary Base Defense Squadron fire team leader, routinely inspires his Airmen to push for excellence at all times to obtain the career progression they desire.
“My father never raised me to use my skin color as an excuse,” Isidor said. “He always taught me that was a weak argument.”
Isidor described how he looked back throughout multiple challenges in his career to a time early on that gave him hope for the future. He recalls the first time he stepped into his squadron building after technical school, surprised to see who greeted him.
“I stepped in and I remember being greeted by my chief, who was a black man. I sat there for a second, and I said to myself, ‘Okay, this is doable,’” Isidor said. “This is every bit of possible. If this man can do it, I can do it too.”
That memory gave him the drive to strive for goals throughout his career. It taught him that regardless of one’s background, opportunities or economic status, success can always be achieved through relentless effort.
“Prove to your supervisors and your leadership chain why you are deserving of the position you want,” Isidor said. “Show them the documentation. Show them the certificates. Show them the experience you have. Make the decision easy for them.”
Isidor found innovative ways to prove himself to leadership and peers throughout his career.
“When I first joined the military, I was extremely motivated,” Isidor said. “I wanted to be the best of everything – in all aspects of my job.”
Isidor routinely mentors his Airmen on their roles as security forces members. He also preaches to them about the importance of taking pride in their jobs and serving as Airmen.
“I could instantly see how his Airmen would react to his leadership because when he speaks, they listen intently,” said Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Wheeler, 409th Air Expeditionary Group command chief. “They looked up to him because he cared and wanted them to be the best Airman they could be. He has high standards for himself and lets nothing dissuade him from his goals and he pushes his Airmen to do the same.”
As “developing exceptional leaders” is one of the Air Force’s key focus areas, Isidor emphasizes to his Airmen that there are different types leaders at all hierarchies of an organization that impact the mission, from first term Airmen to four-star generals. In order to attain success from one rank to the next, Airmen must put forth consistent effort to achieving their dreams.
“No one is going to go out and do the job for you,” Isidor said. “It’s a hard knock lifestyle because if you work hard, your dreams and aspirations are attainable as long as they’re realistic. But if you’re not willing to put the time and the effort in to go out and seek opportunities, you’ll never go anywhere.”