Commentary

July 19, 2012

What’s your story?

Commentary by Col. Jonathan Sutherland
50th Network Operations Group

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) — I remember the phone call three years ago like it happened an hour ago. My sister called to tell me our dad had died unexpectedly in his sleep. Among the many emotions I encountered shortly thereafter, I distinctly remember reflecting on my dad’s Air Force service as I watched his flag being folded by sharp Air Force honor guard members.

My dad only served four years in the Air Force, but my childhood was filled with stories about his service and the people with whom he served. He rarely spoke of what he did, but focused more on his supervisors, peers and the few subordinates he had. He still knew them by name, where they were from and had a story or two to tell about each of them. After more than 20 years out of the Air Force, he still kept in touch with those Airmen. Frankly, his stories and my excitement about wanting to be part of an organization like that were the main reasons I enlisted in the Air Force a few months after graduating from high school.

I came in the Air Force during an era before computers and cell phones. I knew everyone in the office and nearly everything about them. It was natural. To get something done, you walked to their desk or developed a relationship with them over the phone. I knew just by the sound of their voice or the way they walked into the office what kind of day they were having. I didn’t have to rely on them to post their status on Facebook to understand how they were feeling. Of course, Facebook was still 20 years away.

In today’s digital age, times have certainly changed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a cyber guy and a huge proponent of technology, so I’m excited to see where we’re headed into the future. However, the one area that we’ve sacrificed is personal relationships and the ability to “read” our fellow Airmen. How many times have you sent an e-mail or text to the Airman sitting in your own office? How well do you know your co-workers, your boss and your subordinates? Do you know where they’re from? Do you know what they do off-duty?

As a young squadron commander in England, I had to pick up the pieces of a devastated unit after a bright, young senior airman took her own life. She was popular, outgoing and an impressive Airman, having won the squadron Airman of the quarter award earlier that year. After her death, we learned how much stress she had in her life and how many signs were out there if people would have just known her better. No one wanted to ask because they didn’t want to “get into her business.” Of course after her death, they all wished they would have.

Tragically, our Air Force is barreling down a path to set a record for suicides in 2012. The previous record for suicides was set in 2010 when 99 fellow Airmen took their own lives. We are well on our way to smash that record this year. In most of these cases, the signs were there, but no one was watching for them. How many of our wingmen are deployed, have moved or worked a different shift schedule? If wingmen aren’t watching out for each other, who is? If you don’t know much about your co-workers, how will you recognize abnormal behavior from normal? It’s incumbent upon each one of us to get to know our fellow Airmen. Step out from behind your desk, walk to the next desk and just ask a few questions about their life. Sure, it might be a little invasive, but it also may reveal the struggles they’re facing.

Twenty-five years from now, when you’re talking to your kids and grandkids about your Air Force life, what will you tell them? Let’s hope you go overboard and tell them about each person you worked with, how they were unique and how much you still stay in touch with them. Everyone has a story to tell. Let’s hope you get out from behind your computer to hear them all. I look forward to hearing yours too.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier)

PASM and AMARG set new record

The Pima Air and Space Museum and the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group set a new record for tours administered in the month of July. The non-profit museum and D-M’s “Boneyard” brought in 2,060 visitors, ...
 
 

Help make it possible

D-M is preparing to kickoff its annual Combined Federal Campaign Sept. 1. The CFC’s mission is to give federal employees the opportunity to promote philanthropy by supporting their favorite charities. There are more than 3000 national and international charities for federal employees to choose from. “Now, D-M members can give to any charity in the...
 
 

MAC celebrates 85th anniversary

The Tucson Metro Chamber Military Affairs Committee celebrated its 85th anniversary earlier this month. The MAC became a standing committee of the Tucson Metro Chamber in 1929. At that time, the Chamber’s Aviation Committee was responsible for the Pilot’s Register at Davis-Monthan Aviation Field, the first municipal aviation field in the United States. “I think...
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo)

Air Force earns majority of federal energy awards

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) — It’s a banner year for the Air Force with the Department of Energy recently announcing that service won a lion’s share of 2014 Federal Energy Management Program awards. The Air Fo...
 
 

Nominees sought for Joan Orr spouse, Verne Orr ward

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) — Air Force Personnel Center officials are now accepting nominations for the 2015 Air Force Association Joan Orr Air Force Spouse of the Year Award and the 2015 AFA Verne Orr Award. The Joan Orr award honors significant contributions made by non-military spouses of Air Force military members. The...
 
 

Airmen encouraged to vote, obey AFI on political activities

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — As the political season approaches, we should all be encouraged to do our civic duty and go out and vote. However, as an Air Force member, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here is a short noninclusive list to help you determine what is or is...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin