What is the most important four-letter word?

  • Published
  • By Capt. Joseph Coslett
  • 1st SOW Public Affairs
What is the most important four-letter word in the English language -- love, care? A father asked his sons. The sons responded by scratching their heads and guessing to no avail, the father's answer was always the same -- no. However, the answer was no, not that N-O, but K-N-O-W.

Retired Gen. Lloyd "Fig" Newton, African-American History Luncheon and Through the Eyes of the Commando keynote speaker, expressed this lesson during his speech before a large audience at the heritage luncheon in Freedom Hangar.

"Even though we are putting emphasis on African-Americans today, it's all of the cultures, differences and backgrounds coming together to make this great nation," he said. "Each one of us brings something unique to the table from our background and is what truly makes America -- America."

General Newton did not spend a lot of time on history but said, "Your and my responsibility ... is to ensure that part of our history never happens again or even comes close."

As a whole, people have not even come close to solving all of the problems in American society, however, "our country is a long way up the hill and peeking over the other side," he said. The questions to ask are "what are the issues?" and "do people have the means to solve the issues?" His answer, "Absolutely we have the means to do this, but do we have the will to make it happen?"

The goal according to General Newton is to ensure society has created a fair, equitable and equal environment so all resources are available to everyone. This is a leadership role, and it doesn't matter if it is in the U.S. Air Force or in the community.

One thing he told us to remember is, "President Reagan said, 'You can't fight this war of racism in one day or era, then just leave it. It has to be fought in every generation.'"

The other part is the individual responsibility to prepare themselves to take advantage of opportunities, he said. "We have to prepare ourselves, like my father said. It's all about education; it's all about knowing. He said without knowledge you won't go anywhere. Even though my dad had a second-grade education and my mom a sixth-grade education, they stressed how important education was."

General Newton continued to emphasize that education levels, the playing field. In the Air Force we have access to education.

"Give someone a fish, and they'll eat and live for a day. Teach someone to fish, and they'll eat and live for a long, long time," he said. "What we really want to do is teach people to live for a very long, long time and take care of themselves. Our fate is in our hands, that's what makes us such a great nation. We need to find a way to move all of us forward, and leaving someone behind is unacceptable, because anytime we leave someone behind, we need to turn around and take care of them so they can take care of themselves.

"If you don't know African-American history you don't know American history. We are American, and that is how we need to look at this," he said

In addition to knowing about African-American history, General Newton shared lessons learned from his career and during his assignment as the U.S. Special Operations Command's J3, director of operations, at the Through the Eyes of the Commando event in the base theater.

"Now I thought I had some great assignments. I had been on the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds team, I've been in the F-117, I've flown F-16s, but when I got to special operations, let me tell you it was something very special," he said.

He learned a couple of lessons from special operations. First, the importance special operations places in people.

"I saw what we were doing with so few people in so many places around the world and having real impact -- I'm talking about real impact," the general said.

Second, the general learned special operations selection and training are second to none, but most importantly he saw the capability of the individual regardless of rank. This lesson came to light when he was in Washington, D.C., when two individuals were briefing an important and sensitive mission, and they were not senior enlisted members.

"This isn't about rank, this is about experience, and the training to execute the mission and carry out those strategic types of missions that is required for the well being of our nation," he said. "These folks were some of the best, and I would absolutely follow them anywhere."

The final knowledge lesson is when the general was asked what did he learn when he had the opportunity to serve with some great leaders.

"First, the value of a leader is being brave enough to say I was wrong and change," he said. "When I was a commander, the fastest way to get fired was to not make a decision. I don't care if it is the wrong decision, but I do want you to make a decision."

Second, he learned a lesson from former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell about being a patriot and a true servant to the nation. Be known as an Airman, General Newton said. Also, be a true professional; do not think of yourself as sitting above everyone else, but think of yourself among everyone else. This will allow you to feel what the lowest levels are experiencing.

"[Finally,] success doesn't happen by luck, it is very deliberate," he said. "You need to make yourself more marketable in whatever your specialty is or organization you're a part of, whether it be the military or industry. The last time I asked for a job was as a captain; from then on, someone was looking for me, and in my mind that's the position you want to be in."

General Newton passed on his gratitude, "To all of the warriors out there and particularly their families, thank you for your unwavering dedication and support to our men and women in uniform. Thank you for the great work and the great dedication ... for your efforts in the war on terror and protecting this great land of ours and these great freedoms. My hat's off to you, I regret I don't have the opportunity to still wear the uniform, but if any of you want to trade places with me -- I'll gladly do so.