Be smart, be ready, be there

PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. -- I am honored to be able to write this article for the Goodfellow Air Force Base community. As always, it is a pleasure working with so many professionals. Let me begin by first saying "thank you" to all of you who are serving your nation in the Armed Forces--and that goes for all men and women in uniform, the civilian employees, and their families who are part of our nation's security team. You are all sacrificing to serve the nation in this time of war. You should be proud of the service you perform and you should know that the American people greatly appreciate it.

Today, I would like to briefly provide three recommendations for those who want to make a difference in their time of service, especially to those who are undergoing or just completing training. I have no great wisdom or keen insights to share--just a small bit of advice based on my own experience. These three recommendations are: Be Smart, Be Ready, and Be There.

Be Smart! We all know that you have learned your lessons well and that you are about to embark on a career in your service. You need to continue to learn about and understand your profession and your role in it. However, it is not enough to just be an expert at your job. You also have to be smart enough that your chain of command and the people you support actually believe that you know your job. It does you no good to be the best linguist, the best firefighter, or the best marksman if no one in your chain of command has confidence in you. You can be the smartest officer in your class--but if your peers on the battlefield don't have confidence in you, it won't matter. You must be smart enough to succeed not only in your career field--but also inspire confidence in your supervisors, commanders, and those you are supporting in the war fight. Be smart enough to remember that you are a part of much larger team that needs to work in unison. People are depending on you and your expertise as a member of the Department of Defense team.

Be Ready! Now is the time to get ready to go to war and serve your nation. When the nation needs you--and they will--it will always call in the middle of the night at the most inconvenient time. Ask any senior officer or NCO about their experiences and they will verify this. Your day-to-day life in the military is really provided by the nation as an "insurance policy" in the event a security situation requires the nation to call on you. When that call comes, there is no more time to prepare. You will need to use your time now to get ready. That means studying and practicing your skills, gaining more knowledge, and applying it every day. It also means staying physically fit, getting your shots, having the dentist check your teeth. And it means having your family ready for you to leave as well. Being ready is not an easy task. It takes discipline, commitment, teamwork, and dedication. Do not doubt this wisdom--when that call comes, you will go as you are. You will not have time to study vocabulary, get your shots, brush up on your firefighting skills, practice with the targeting software, or get your family prepared for your absence. If you are not doing these things today, you will not be ready when the call comes.

Be There! Finally, if you are going to make a difference in your service, you have to be there. This is equivalent to "you must be present to win." To 'be there," you need to volunteer for the assignments and make it known you want to be a player. But, you also need to be safe everyday, and not take unnecessary risks that will take you out of the fight. If you are on a motorcycle, wear that helmet. Don't drink and drive! Skateboarders--wear that protective gear! It has taken us many months to recruit and train you. There is no easy way to replace you. In fact, we cannot do so right away. If you take yourself out of the fight because you forgot about safety--or you did something stupid that cost you your clearance--or you just decided to "hide" and avoid doing your duty--your friends and classmates will have to cover for you. In our military today, we don't have the luxury of excess--we need everyone we have. We can't plug the hole you leave behind if you are not there--we simply have to close our ranks tighter and do even more with less.

Each of you joined to serve and you were excited and proud to have done so. Your families are proud of you. In the day-to-day routine, don't forget why you joined--you wanted to make a difference. You will have that opportunity when the nation calls in the middle of the night. To succeed, you will need to Be Smart, Be Ready, and Be There. Thank you again for serving our nation. Get out there and make a difference.