Schieffer: What I learned in the USAF

U.S. Air Force insignia

Forty-nine years ago this week, I got out of the Air Force after serving three years on active duty.

I got out on the same day I went in: 7 September. It's the one day I always put the date first and then the month, because that's how the Air Force did it. It just pops up in my memory that way.

I didn't join for noble reasons. I enrolled in ROTC in college because I didn't want to be drafted. But I learned more in those three years than I ever did in any school.

One of the first lessons was when I came up with some crazy idea, and my boss told me, "That might work, but first learn to do it our way; then you can try it your way."

Remarkably, it turned out the Air Force had figured out several things that had never dawned on me at age 22.

That saved me a lot of trouble down the line - this revelation that others might have ideas just as good as - or better than - mine.

The Air Force gave me the pride that comes from being part of something larger than myself, and the knowledge that comes from working and learning from others on a team.

Maybe it's unfair, but as I watch the mess we've made of our politics, I find myself asking, "Do you suppose these people were ever on a team? Ever sat down and really listened to what someone else was saying? Ever have anything on their minds but themselves?"

I know, I already said it's unfair.

But I keep wondering and thinking how much I learned after 7 September.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.