By Col. Barry Simon, 17th Medical Group commander
/ Published July 03, 2008
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Not to start a positive article with an apology, but I really don't have an in-depth knowledge of every Air Force Specialty Code we train here at Goodfellow. Whereas your own squadron commander may be able to relate each technical detail to the outcome you produce, I can speak intelligently from the experience of an outsider to every AFSC other than medical because I have been in the field with the people we train here. I think that's a novel approach to speak from.
Don't believe for even a flashing moment that your work here is less important than in Korea, the Horn of Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan or scores of other places to which we have troops deployed. Don't think that you're just training for your contingency function by being here at Goodfellow. Don't let your friends in places with flying airplanes and satellites make your job seem less glorious or essential.
Twice in my career now I have lost focus for a bit. Let me explain with an example. A few years ago I was in a carpeted and silent hallway at David Grant Medical Center as a squadron commander for 650 people. I had an important job managing a lot of paper that occupied the entire day. For a good while I was completely consumed by those tasks, walking straight from the car up a private entry to the office that was essentially important to getting the business of medical care done.
What I forgot was the purpose for which I was doing the business of medical care. I had to remove myself from my enclave and go to the tiled and frantic hallways where the patients were. Those were the products that I should have been focused on all along, and not the signature on the bottom of a discrepancy log. To be more precise, launching and recovering the KC-10s and C-5s and the Air Mobility Operations Group tenant to the 60th Air Mobility Wing, and all the inter-related parts, was the reason we were taking care of patients.
More recently, I was having a terrible time defining an orientation for this column...until yesterday afternoon during my almost daily walk around the perimeter. I happened upon a staff sergeant in his blues uniform with a certificate in his hand. I had to stop and congratulate him and another proud family of an Airman who were coming out of their intelligence class graduation ceremony.
Summary: I told the parents to be proud: their childrens' skills were absolutely essential to the global war on terrorism...they were now tasked with saving lives. I directly advised the Airmen to do well and perform carefully because troops in combat will be depending on them.
The Air Education and Training Command shield says "First Command." This is very simple: every Airman in uniform has come through one or another of the training facilities built and staffed by AETC. Be proud.
We have the only Department of Defense fire academy to which Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines come to learn the most important function in infrastructure maintenance and recovery. There is not a post, camp, station, ship or air base without a fire-fighting force. I haven't been anywhere in the world where I didn't bark at a Department of Defense firefighter and he or she has not barked back, because that firefighter has been here. Be proud.
The requirement for intelligence gathering and interpretation is extremely acute in a war where major troop movements do not occur.
What used to be relatively straight-forward exploitation of operational security breaches by our enemy, like watching tanks mass on a line, doesn't happen when the fighting unit we engage in the global war on terrorism is less than 10 individuals.
Everyday I saw images and heard recordings and listened to analyses reports that saved lives based on voice, signal, infrared and computer-aided comparative diagnostics. We train those imagery and intelligence analysts who know where the improvised explosive devices are being placed and where in the mountains the enemy is hiding, and what is the source of the weapons being used against us, right here. Be proud.
Be proud and keep your mind on the ultimate output, not the task you walk in to your workplace to do on Monday morning.