I guess I would consider myself lucky – perhaps luckier than other Airmen – to see what I’ve seen.
I’ve seen the bigger picture. Have you?
I’ve sunk into boot-sucking mud with the Cable Dawgs while they worked with hundreds of miles of cable beneath our very feet. I’ve braved face-chapping cold with maintainers and saw what it took to get their hulking, crippled aircraft back in the sky. I’ve hunkered down with vehicle maintainers as they squeezed themselves beneath soiled, oily vehicles, trying to get it “in the green.” I’ve sweated with explosive ordnance disposal Airmen as they approached mortar rounds in skin-searing desert heat with 30 pounds of gear on. I’ve watched Airmen in the air control squadron guide small green dots on their screen to troops in contact. I’ve seen what it takes to launch an alert jet in Iraq. I’ve watched over the shoulders of our medical Airmen in theater hospitals as they brought Airmen, Soldiers and others back from death’s door.
I’ve seen more than I could ever remember – finance, fuels, bomb-stock controllers, labor and delivery, working dog handlers, non-destructive inspection labs, munitions, contracting, the hush house, photographers, combat arms and countless others.
While writing about each one of those shops, I’ve met Airmen – everyday you-and-me kind of Airmen – with the most amazing stories. I was able to tell the story of an Airman who received a Purple Heart after his convoy was hit in Iraq, another who was trying to remove her family from a refugee camp in Kenya, and another who chose surgery to remove a golf-ball sized tumor from his brain so he could continue his Air Force career.
These stories are among us. What made these stories different is that a supervisor, a commander, or fellow Airmen made sure these stories were told. In so many cases, the personal stories of these Airmen touched others – not just other Airmen, but civilians who were going through something similar.
As a supervisor, commander, or fellow Airman, how well do you know those you are working with? Knowing your Airmen isn’t just a chance to have their name printed in the paper; it’s the opportunity to change a life.
You want to know their stories? Ask them. I guarantee you’ll see a bigger picture – that each Airman with a story to tell, makes us part of something bigger, something greater than ourselves.