Taking the ‘Air Force family’ to a new level

Commentary by Chaplain (Capt.) Gregory Brunson
Joint Base Charleston Chaplain

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AFNS) — “Someone’s knocking at the door again! Is it really time to go to breakfast?”

Those words crossed my mind many times, early in the morning as I woke to find the “Air Force mafia” standing outside my room. I would quickly grab my cover and step outside into the hazy Afghanistan morning. Every morning five company grade officers would go from room to room knocking on each other’s doors trying to guess who was going to breakfast and talking about who stayed up to watch the Florida State University game to the early hours of the morning.

We called ourselves the “mafia” because we were five Air Force CGO’s living in a predominantly Army world. We were more than just a group of co-workers. We were more than friends. You would be more correct to call us a “family.” Together we celebrated each other’s birthdays and anniversaries. More importantly, we created a team, a community, a place to belong.

We didn’t always share the same interests. One captain served as the Air Force chair on an all Army morale, welfare and recreation committee. My chaplain assistant, who was an honorary sixth “mafia” member, and I joined the camp’s all volunteer fire department.

Some might be surprised to find that we didn’t share similar political ideas or even religious beliefs. We were a diverse group, made up of Democrats and Republicans; Jews, Roman Catholics and Protestants.

Those categories did not keep us from forming a community. They made us even stronger. We had created a culture of caring and a new way to connect with our Air Force family.

Air Mobility Command officials released a concept July 1, called Comprehensive Airman Fitness. The news release described it as a new approach and not a new program.

What I like about Comprehensive Airman Fitness is that it recognizes the need for a cultural change, a total shift in the way we think and act. We need to connect with each other and build a more resilient Air Force community that can stand up to the challenges we’re facing.

Those stressors are real. High operations tempo, continued downsizing, deployments and the economy can take a toll on us. The good news is we are stronger than all of those challenges put together.

As a chaplain, I visit with Airmen who are dealing with real stress, but don’t always have the resources to lean upon. They are hungry for connection. They want to be closer to their friends and family and are missing out on the greatest support system that’s available. They want deeper relationships.

I admire the commanders and first sergeants who take risk and discover new ways to increase the bonds within their organization. They often try new things: adding a spin to their commander’s calls, working with booster clubs to increase community, and celebrating their unit’s heritage and their accomplishments.

For the Airmen who are reading this, I want to encourage you to reach out and find ways to get involved. Join a private organization like the Air Force Association, the Company Grade Officer’s Council, the Air Force Sergeant’s Association or the junior enlisted council. I am grateful for the friendship of five CGO’s who became my adopted family. Make those connections that will last for a lifetime, beyond your Air Force career.

You will be stronger for it, more resilient. And you know what? The Air Force will be stronger for it, too.