Who's going to save America's Airmen?

(Courtesy Graphic)

(Courtesy Graphic)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- You see it, day-in day-out, without fail. Staring back at you are the eyes of our Airmen, brimming with exhaustion, frustration and anxiety. What trade or skills they bring to the fight doesn't matter; the strain is felt by all.

Often, the day-to-day woe is not what's reflected in their eyes. It's what they can't see that plagues them: the unknown lurking at the end of the tunnel known as force reduction.
Be honest, can you blame them for feeling troubled?

To answer the question, you are going to save our American Airmen. You may think, "But I struggle too, and I don't know how I'll get through." Firstly, if you're weary, you cannot uplift others.

In order to help you refill your personal stock of hope, answer the following:
· What brings light into your life and makes you smile?
· What gives you purpose?
· When life's storms are threatening to toss you into the abyss, what anchors you?

When you feel your internal sun source begin to fade, take pause. Recall times when you felt lucky or blessed by events and people that aided you along the journey.

With tons of changes that surround us currently, many are left wondering: if we survive the transition, will serving in the new Air Force be worth the struggle?

Go ahead, let it out. Say what's been bouncing around in your head for some time now: "This is bogus! It isn't fair! How can I be expected to do all of this with so little help?"

The truth is there isn't a program or office that will fix the situation for us. Morale shirts were never intended to cast a magic wand over the hearts and minds of our troops.

This pit of burden, fear and confusion you may feel, while valid, is not a place any Airmen can call home. As Airmen you are different than the average citizen. You are a warrior, our nation's elite. You are charged with summoning the strength to rip yourself out of the muck, rally those around you and complete the mission.

Leadership knows you are capable and frankly they have every right to demand this of you.

The "Little Brown Book," Air Force Instruction 36-2618, states "Be spiritually ready... those personal qualities needed to help a person through times of stress, hardship, and tragedy."

This is an entry-level demand placed on all Airmen. As leaders, we must maintain and strengthen those qualities for ourselves and in others.

When you hear the inevitable, "Welcome to Shaw! This base sucks! *fill in the blank* is the worst!" Don't raise your beer mug and offer "cheers" to that individual.

That war fighter requires further development and if left unaddressed, their dark outlook can spread, infect others and gain strength, morphing into something out of control. Not only will our mission be at risk, but we will have failed our leaders, Airmen, ourselves, and those who came before and who come after us.

Draw on past personal hardship-to-triumph successes to gain energy and forward momentum. Spread your point of view to others and not just to those lower ranking.

Remember also that those above us suffer more than we realize. They aren't afforded the same ease in expressing their true feelings as those they lead. A simple phrase such as, "I know this is tough, but I trust in your abilities sir/ma'am" shows great faith and empowers the chain, up and down.

Then trust. Our leaders will make a way, even if it's not how we pictured. More manning may not return, but there's hope that we will be only focused on bare bone requirements, and not with the bells and whistles we used to have.

In truth, whatever is to become of the Air Force's future will be cutting edge, never before seen. Airmen will be faster, smarter and more skilled at what they take pride in. We will be a smaller but superb force, whether we embrace the change or not.

If you keep hope alive in yourself and others, we will all arrive together, safely serving in tomorrow's Air Force; more prepared to protect freedom than ever before.

President John F. Kennedy said "to those whom much is given, much is expected." We have earned honor that transcends our lifespan. Our daily actions may not be heroic; still, we are heroes, because we've served.

Much is expected of you indeed.

When you raised your right hand, you knew you would not only meet, but exceed expectations. When those around you lose hope, guide them back to their light source and seek out people who help you refocus on the incredible worth you possess.