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.


 
 

 

Becoming stronger through failure

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D.  — Failing the Air Force physical training test: my greatest fear since joining the military. It is embarrassing to admit recently that fear came to fruition, but what I have learned through that failure has become one of my greatest strengths. After failing, I definitely felt like a weak person for not...
 
 

Students wear red, white and blue to honor Month of the Military Child

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau) Students of Borman Elementary School gather together for a flag raising ceremony and wear red, white and blue clothing to honor the Month of the Military Child at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, April 10. During the ceremony, the children listened to guest speakers, recited the...
 
 

Case lot sale returns to D-M April 17-19

FORT LEE, Va. – Mention case lot sales and commissary patrons start lining up for the opportunity to save up to 50 percent or more on club-pack and full-case items. Known as the Commissary Customer Appreciation Case Lot Sale, the springtime version of this twice-yearly event will unfold at stateside stores, each hosting their individual...
 

 
(U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Jessica H. Smith and Airman Connor J. Marth)

More than meets the eye

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho — The word abuse often conjures images of bruises, swollen lips and harsh markings, but abuse is more than meets the eye. It can be much more than physical suffering and can have last...
 
 
(Courtesy photo)

AFSOUTH working with Colombia to develop space program

American Airmen from the Space community traveled to multiple U.S. space operations locations with Colombian air force counterparts in February as part of a U.S. Southern Command subject matter expert exchange. According to Lt....
 
 

Local Briefs April 17, 2015

NARFE Chapter 55 to meet  April 13, 11 a.m. – Golden Corral The National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association, Chapter 55, will hold their next monthly luncheon meeting on Monday April 13 at the Golden Corral, 4380 East 22nd Street, Tucson, AZ 85711. The luncheon starts at 11 a.m. and ends about 1:30...
 




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