Always be Prepared
By Lt. Col. Michael LePage, 17th Training Support Squadron commander
/ Published April 26, 2010
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
On Jan. 12 a devastating natural disaster struck near the heavily populated area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The effects of the earthquake were staggering to a populace already known as the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
Shortly after the earthquake, Goodfellow was asked for volunteers to deploy in support of the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort. I, along with two other Intelligence professionals, Maj. Sean Godfrey and Chief Master Sgt. Lewis Engstrom, both with the 316th Training Squadron, were chosen by our leadership for the deployment.
We packed our bags and were on a plane within 96 hours of initial notification. Not knowing if we would spend our deployment at Headquarters U.S. Southern Command or forward deploy to Haiti, we packed all the gear we might need. Ultimately we remained at Headquarters USSOUTHCOM in Miami for the duration of our deployment. The nature of our short-notice deployment reminded me of a motto that I had learned early in life and one that I was taught to live by, "be prepared."
This is the motto of the Boy Scouts of America and that's how I first learned it. It was later reinforced in the Air Force with our Air and Space Expeditionary Force mindset. In today's Air Force we must all follow this motto or we will find ourselves ill-prepared for opportunities such as the one we faced in being ready for our short-notice deployment. We were asked to bring our expertise to help the people of Haiti and that's what we did.
Our nation has a great responsibility to the world community and our Armed Forces is an essential instrument of our national power that enables our government to provide quick reaction to those in need. We are truly a global society and must be prepared to do our duty whenever and wherever it is required. I am especially thankful to the men and women in the 17th Logistics Readiness Squadron's Traffic Management Office and the 17th Training Group's Resource Advisors who all displayed a tremendous team effort and worked diligently to get the three of us out of town quickly.
While deployed to USSOUTHCOM, the overall mission of Operation Unifies Response was initially to bring lifesaving equipment and personnel to the people of Haiti. Later, our focus shifted to longer term relief efforts for the survivors.
During my deployment another famous quote came to my mind. Just prior to taking command of the 17th Training Support Squadron, I attended the Air Education and Training Command squadron commander's course. AETC commander, General Stephen Lorenz, shared with us the following quote from Winston Churchill, "To every man there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder to do a special thing unique to him and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour." This quote speaks to the motto "be prepared" in a more lengthy and profound way. The message is clear and one we must all take to heart. Are you prepared? Are you ready to answer our nation's call?