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Words for newcomers

Posted 3/12/2007   Updated 3/20/2007 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Lt. Col. Thomas Crimmins
737 EAS/CC

3/12/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- "Welcome to the Rock! The first thing I want to tell you is: We are a wing at war." Those are the familiar words spoken by 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Commander, Col Paul Curlett kicking off each Right Start brief. 

I want to echo his statement, and use it as an effective grounding point to amplify our wing's purpose. As a new arrival to the Rock, I look forward to a warrior-minded atmosphere. Units with a sharp combat focus and a highly-tuned sense of mission and purpose always perform better than those that do not. The 386th is one of those highly-tuned units. It's up to each and every one of us to keep it that way. 

"Complacency kills." I repeatedly use these words to remind my operators in the 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron to maintain their combat focus.The C-130 community has become accustomed to its unique operations tempo as AEF enablers: four months deployed, four months home, four months deployed, etc; or as sarcastic aircrew members would put it: "Lather, rinse, repeat." The 386 AEW aircrews are flying daily combat missions over Iraq and supporting non routine OEF missions in Afghanistan as well. The level of danger for an action does not diminish in relation to the number of times you accomplish that action. We falsely and naturally become numb to that danger. This culture of complacency was cited by accident investigators during the space shuttle Columbia aftermath. The danger never lessened, but NASA's acceptance of it became routine. In other words, "Complacency kills." 

"So what!" you may be thinking. That only applies to the operations on the flightline. Not so fast, my friend! We are a wing at war, and this wing is more than just flying and maintaining airplanes. Every unit and every airman at the Rock contributes to that mission. Remember my earlier anticipation of working in a combat-focused unit with a highly-tuned sense of mission? Complacency can kill that too. Don't let it happen! We all share the responsibility to spot-correct attitude deviations from this spirit just as you would uniform discrepancies. Let's keep "The Rock" warrior spirit alive and mission strong. The mission comes first, and we all play a pivotal role! 

You may ask yourself, "How can I help?" 

First, be proud of what you do! Share your story. This may come as a shock, but not everyone on this base knows or understands what or how you contribute to our mission. Fix that! We can all communicate better with each other and avoid miscommunication and misunderstandings that ultimately degrade our cohesiveness which impacts the mission. I've been amazed at the 586th Expeditionary Mission Support Group contributions to our wartime mission. Since most members do not physically reside on the Rock, we don't hear their story often. This unit drives medium truck vehicle convoys into Iraq on a daily basis. We've all read about the Vehicle-Born Improvised Explosive Device threat and the carnage they wreack in Iraq. These warriors brave that threat everyday often without complaint, recognition, or deserving gratitude. My hat's off to you.
Closer to home, the 737 EAS aircrews endure 12-15 hour days flying combat sorties every other day deep within Iraq territory. These warriors brave another constant threat to US operations; surface-to-air attacks which recently have taken a deadly toll on our Army comrades' helicopters. They accomplish this task on a rolling flying schedule which shifts to the right 2-4 hours each day. That means that in two weeks, aircrew have shifted from flying early morning missions to those late at night with little to no opportunity to adjust their body clock during the constant transition. These unique circumstances create local support challenges as well ranging from distinct billeting requirements to non-standard requests for flight meals. Once we understand each others' mission requirements and contributions, these challenges are easily resolved. Our job is to prevent these misunderstandings in the first place. Communication is the key to understanding, so spread the word! 

Second, respect what others do! As I mentioned earlier, I'm in awe of the 586 EMSG. Every unit here has a unique and critical function they bring to the fight. If not, you wouldn't (or shouldn't) be here. It takes a lot of support and work to launch and fly sorties with the impressive mission effectiveness rate in the mid-to-high 90's which we've proudly sustained. It's not the result of any one squadron or group, but all of us working towards the same goal. Stop and say thank-you to those you support and those who support you. Self-worth for an individual or unit is not gained by belittling the contributions of others. A little thanks goes a long way as does a little respect up-front. Never dismiss a request from another unit as "out-of-hand." If it's an unusual request, there may be a good reason. 

Chief Harmon, 386 EOG/CEM, recently observed that it may be getting easier to say "No" on the Rock than "Yes." That may be true, but I always answer someone's "No" with a much more difficult question: "Why not?" If we maintain our combat mission focus, share our story, and respect others' contributions, we may never need to answer that question.

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