Going above, beyond Combat Care for holidays

Maj. Gen. Mike Gould
3rd Air Force commander

***image1***From time to time, we all need to step back from the hectic pace of our daily routines to get a good perspective check. You know, get out the “level” and see how well we’re balancing our priorities. I have done this constantly for years by looking at how I stand with regard to my faith, my family, my physical fitness and how much enjoyment and satisfaction come from my contributions.

If you share the philosophy that we should all “work to live,” not “live to work,” you’ll know what I mean in saying there is really nothing on Earth more important than our families. No matter what we accomplish during our time in the service, when the day comes to hang up the uniform for the final time, all the awards, citations, medals and memories will be behind us.

Thankfully, our families will still be there. We’ve all known too many people who look back on their careers with the single, haunting regret that they wish they’d spent more time with or taken better care of their spouse and kids. I decided long ago I would not let that regret hang over my head, and I urge you to make the same pledge.

I know some struggle with what sometimes seen as a conflict between one of our core values “Service Before Self” and the concept of taking care of our families. I believe they complement each other.

Let me explain. Granted, selfless service often spells long work days, extended separation from loved ones and all the associated sacrifices, but what better way to provide for your family than to demonstrate to your kids the value of a strong work ethic.

Showing your family how their love and support has prepared you to succeed in your chosen career is a way of honoring your parents, siblings and other extended family members. On top of that, your sacrifices and your dedication to excellence will only serve to further your personal advancement, once again, allowing you to better provide for your family’s needs.

Taking care of our families takes a conscious effort. Simply talking about it won’t cut it. I’ve been physically separated during birthdays, holidays, anniversaries and T-ball games. I know you have as well. We have to work at it.

We, as parents, need to know how important it is to be at our children’s events: ball games, dance recitals, parent-teacher conferences, school awards, church activities, etc. Then we need to make that special effort to be there. At the same time, supervisors and commanders must likewise create a work environment that encourages Airmen to step forward and ask for time to participate in these extra special family events.

Single Airmen are not exempt from this family perspective check. Even though your family might not include a spouse and children, there are certainly loved ones, moms, dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, who treasure the phone calls, emails and letters from you. Stay close to your family. Tell them what’s going on in your life. Share your successes and challenges, and let them know you love them.

With the advent of Combat Care, 3rd Air Force personnel are finding many new and inventive ways to put the focus back on our families. I encourage everyone to investigate the kinds of Combat Care services your base offers. Activities I’ve seen during my command-wide travels include free dinners, movie passes, car-care certificates, theme park passes and a variety of other “good deals.”

We need to think ahead. We should sit down with our families prior to deploying and scour the atlas so they know where these far-off places are. While away, we should write notes to our children encouraging them in their accomplishments, both big and small. We should also prepare thoughtful gifts or letters for our spouses to be presented by friends throughout our time away.

Let’s all make sure to re-examine our priorities this holiday season and if our families are not at the top of our list, let’s reprioritize.

Thanks for your service. It’s a pleasure working with the world-class men and women of 3rd Air Force!