I cannot believe it has been nearly 27 years since the start of this journey. While it has not always been smooth traveling, it has never been boring. Throughout these past years I have had many mentors, critics, bosses, friends and family hold my hand, listen to me rant and rave, and give me honest feedback. Sometimes I took their advice, sometimes they took mine, but through it all, we did everything we could to take care of the people. There were times we cried together over loss or frustration; there were times we sang and danced, acting like fools, but like family we took care of one another.
As I look back, I see that joining the Air Force is like a marriage — for better or for worse. However, it is not death that separates us, because once an Airman always an Airman.
As I prepare to hang up the uniform and start a new adventure, people have asked me what my greatest moment was. Well, I cannot narrow it down to one moment. There have been too many that have made me who I am. They also want to know what I am going to do next. Unfortunately, that’s an even more complex answer. I really don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. The questions that I am able to answer are: Why did you stay and what did you learn?.
I stayed because I was having fun and loved my job. Life is too short to be unhappy. You have to find that thing that makes you the happiest and then that is what you do. If running 10 miles a day makes you happy, then run 10 miles a day and use your knowledge to train others or organize running events or clubs. If playing video games makes you happy, then study video design and develop the next best thing in video games or join video game tournaments. If you don’t know what makes you happy, go out and experiment with different things and find your happiness. Happiness does not lie in the bottom of a bottle of alcohol or pills, it lies in your soul. … Find it!
What did I learn? There were many lessons along the way; some were a lot harder to learn and some I am still working on. Unlike David Letterman, I am not going to give you the Top 10, but I will give you the biggest three.
The first lesson is: The mission gets done better and faster when people work together. Personalities must be put aside, preconceived notions must be ignored, and inequality must be eliminated. This is not high school, there is no reason for cliques. It takes each one of us to get the Air Force mission done.
You have to work with everyone. Even if they are “Joe Dirtbag,” you work with them until leadership is able to help them out the door. Even multiple alpha personalities can work together when they open their eyes and realize they are working for a common good, the protection of our nation and the defense of our way of life. It’s not about who turned the wrench first or who turned it better. It’s about working together to get that airplane in the air, that car on the road, that Airman back in good health, and so on and so forth.
The second lesson I learned is that followership reflects leadership. When the mission failed, it was my fault, not my people. When morale is low, again it was my fault, not my people. If your organization is having problems, look at yourself and the rest of your leaders first. That is where your problem lies. Your work center is a reflection of you as an Airman and a leader. What words do you hear it saying? Does it say harmony and mission accomplishment, or does it say sweat-shop forced labor? Do you have the few carrying the many, because you are too afraid to confront those that are slacking? Are you spending 90 percent of your time on 10 percent of your people? Listen carefully to what your work center is saying to you, and then work hard to correct those words to ones that reflect good leadership.
Finally, the third lesson I learned was that you have to find balance between work and life. There are always going to be times when Service Before Self is a must, but in those other times you must have balance. During the first 17 years of my son’s life, I spent approximately 1,139 days away from home. That’s a little over three years that I was away. Back then, we did not have the technology that is readily available now to help you keep in touch; it was phone calls and snail mail.
In the latter years, he was too busy with friends to chat. During all of the in-between travel times, we as a family made the best memories, from travel to backwards dinners to family game nights. Those moments recharged and refocused me. Even when I was used to spending time alone or had a hard time adapting back into the family or all I wanted to do was sleep after traveling, my family was there for me and helped.
At the end of the day, when I take off these boots permanently, which is very close for me, my family will still be there for me and I will be there for them. They are there, because I never forgot who came first … family, not me, them!
Airmen of Team Hill, families, friends, community leaders and the citizens of the greater Wasatch area, thank you for what you do every day. Thank you for being open and caring about your fellow man, your families, and your country. Good luck to each of you as you continue your journey, may you find peace, happiness, and your own poignant lessons! Peace out, my brothers and sisters!