Taking best care of our assets on base

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Michael Breakey
  • 9th SOS commander
How do we "take best care of our wingmen, families, and resources?" This is a difficult question to answer, and an even more difficult matter to accomplish.

Though difficult to answer, one thing I do know is, if we do not take care of our people, they will let us know by voting with their feet. That loss of experience and ability cannot be made up for quickly or easily. This comes as no surprise to most of us, and it was obvious to the authors of the Special Operations Forces truths. Read them again and tell me that they did not understand that taking care of our wingmen, families and resources was job one!

--Humans are more important than hardware.

--Quality is better than quantity.

--Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.

--Competent Special Operations Forces can not be created after an emergency occurs.

In an era of extremely high operations tempo, in concert with more cutbacks, we ask an incredible amount of our folks -- and that includes the entire family. If you ask 100 people how to best care for our wingmen, families, and resources, you will get at least 75 different answers. Each answer is unique, but most of the responses boil down to several recurring themes.

For some, it is the ability to spend time with the family. For some, it is the knowledge that their family is cared for when they are away. For some, it is the support structure the military offers if they hit a bump in the road. For many, it is a desire for some semblance of stability in order to plan their lives. For most, it is a desire to make a difference; and for all, it is the ability to support the needs of themselves and their families.

These are all well-founded reasons, and in some combination, they apply to each of us. Those who have been in the service more than a few months realize there will be time away from home and key events will be missed.

The rub comes when this is not an atypical event but the norm. Always gone and unable to make a birthday, soccer match or anniversary can be overcome -- for a while -- but if these things pile up month after month and year after year, the strain can become too great for the most solid of people or families.

As has been said before, when the vector of work and the vector of family diverge, that is when things will go wrong. But let's get back to how we accomplish this most difficult task of taking care of wingmen, families and resources. My belief is all of the things that impinge on a person's life, for good or for ill, come down to time.

Time is the most precious resource, and a lack of time cannot be overcome with another support program or a down day here and there. Time is the first thing to go when last minute changes occur. Time is the thing that seems to dissolve in front of you when juggling numerous changes or trying to harness chaos.

Time is what you need to make that little extra effort and check on a squadron mate or their spouse. Time is what you need to think about the ramifications of a decision or a plan. Time is a resource. Time is fundamental.

When you think about both work and home, time is necessary to become the best at anything. That includes the best pilot, mom, loadmaster, dad, tactician, brother, maintainer, friend, mentor, coach or leader.

If we want to take best care of our people, then we need to make sure the time is available for our people to take best care of themselves. This does not mean detaching ourselves from that responsibility, but allowing the individual or family to take best care of themselves from the outset. It is always better to work from this position of strength rather than having to fix what is broken.

With a solid AFSOC family, the mission cannot fail; without it, we are at risk. We must not fail when it comes to taking best care of our wingmen, families and resources.