Mission - Airmen - Family

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- Then-Maj. Gen. Robin Rand, formerly the Air Force's Director of Legislative Liaison, took the time to sit me down on several occasions to provide professional and personal mentorship, most recently after I was selected for squadron command last year. An outstanding senior leader and mentor in our Air Force, he posited that the mission, Airmen and family comprised just about the most perfect list of priorities for any organization.

The three priorities are directly related, a three-item list is short-enough that everyone can remember them all and you'd probably have a difficult time coming up with a more succinct and valuable list of priorities. I've plagiarized now-Lt. Gen. Rand's priorities list and made it my mantra.

When talking about these priorities, I usually cover them in reverse order, as each builds on the other: an Airman's family is his foundation; it is Airmen - not hardware - that accomplish the Air Force's mission; and accomplishing our service's mission absolutely has to be our top priority. After all, mission accomplishment is the sole purpose of the Air Force.

Family

Family is extremely important to me (and probably to most of you, too). I think of family in tactical, operational and strategic contexts: my marriage and blood relatives (tactical); my Air Force family - not just my squadron or group or wing family, but the larger Air Force as a whole (operational); and even my nation as a family (strategic). Let's focus on family at the tactical level.

I submit that families serve just as much as (or even more than) those of us that wear a military uniform. However, their service is neither as witting nor as willing. The military is not exactly easy on families. Goodfellow Air Force Base (this time) is my eighth duty station in fifteen years of service. I'm the reason my wife has jobs rather than a career. Military members have an automatic built-in system of friends immediately upon arrival at a new assignment. The fact that we all wear a blue uniform and have a shared set of experiences with our co-workers provides a measure of stability and familiarity right off the bat. Our families don't enjoy that luxury. Children have to deal with unfamiliar faces at a new school and spouses have to start over professionally.

Then there are deployments; life is comparatively simple for military members on deployment. We work, eat, work-out and sleep. Back home, dogs still need to be walked, children still need to get to soccer practice, cars still need gas and bills still need to be paid. However, all of these tasks must be accomplished while half of the family's adult leadership is in absentia.

Please take advantage of the myriad support services available to you and your family at every duty station and please thank your family serving our nation as well.

Airmen

Next, let's talk about Airmen. You've probably heard that less than one percent of the American population is currently serving in uniform. Everyone serving today volunteered to do so; our Airmen intrinsically have chosen to live by our core value of service before self (this value likely stems from priority number one - Family) before they were even introduced to Air Force core values. Roughly 85 percent of American 18-to-24-year-olds are classified as unfit for military service for any of a number of reasons - physical conditions, mental ability, criminal behavior and more - so you can count yourself as a member of an even more elite portion of that 1% segment of the population.

Furthermore, intelligence personnel had to score well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Batter to qualify for the opportunity to attend intelligence school. They all successfully completed basic training and many of the 316th Training Squadron Airmen also completed a challenging Defense Language Institute curriculum at the Presidio of Monterey, Calif. before coming to the 316th for cryptologic training. Today's Airmen are an elite group compared to their civilian peers!

Mission

Finally, let's turn to mission. You would be hard-pressed to name a mission more critical to our nation's future than the intelligence mission, and the cryptologic intelligence mission in particular. While specifics are necessarily classified, many of our nation's military successes are directly attributable to the mission that intelligence Airmen execute. My instructors and I have seen it first-hand, from Iraq to Afghanistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa and in many other unnamed locations. The products of our mission will be seen and utilized by a wide range of consumers: platoon and company commanders, combatant commanders and even the highest level of government policymakers in Washington, DC. We are fortunate to be able to execute the intelligence mission and truly make a difference by contributing to the greater good.

So there you have it: Mission, Airmen and Family - three simple yet significant priorities. I challenge you to identify a more succinct and hard-hitting list of priorities than Lt. Gen. Rand's list.