Commentary

February 20, 2014

Don’t know what you got (till it’s gone)

Capt. Bret Evans, Jr.
90th Missile Maintenance Squadron

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. (AFNS) — In the fall of 1988, the hair metal band Cinderella delivered to the world a pearl of wisdom beyond their years when they melodically destroyed our eardrums with “Don’t know what you got (till it’s gone).” This power ballad’s intended message refers to the harsh reality lovers face after parting ways, but can also be applied to the relationship all Airmen face — the romance between themselves and the Air Force.

Like any quality dramatic work, the aforementioned romance has many themes that feature our two characters in situations where every wavelength of the human emotional spectrum becomes visible during an Airman’s career.

The notion of a career is multifaceted, but I believe the Chinese philosopher Confucius said it best: “Find a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

I don’t exaggerate when I say that I’ve been fortunate enough to be ‘living the dream’ in my Air Force career. After I wake up in the morning and wipe the gunk out of my eyes, I lie there and think about being an Airman. What an honor it is to serve my God, my country and my family as a member of the most powerful military force in the history of the world.

This career has afforded me a job that I take great pride in, money in my bank account, medical and dental coverage, and the opportunity to do a lot of the cool stuff that most just see in the movies or read about in books.

Several of you have been in a relationship with the Air Force longer than you’ve known your spouse and certainly longer than your children have walked the earth. I imagine that most of you chose to devote more than the standard of 40 hours each week to her. The Air Force has dressed you nearly every morning; introduced you to friends; been your source of grief, frustration and pride; paid you for solid work; encouraged you to better yourself, whether academically, ethically, physically or spiritually; dealt you discipline; and asked for your commitment more than once.

There are times when our commitment waivers and our relationships suffer. Perhaps you haven’t lived up to the core values or your oath. Have you failed to perform beyond the standard level in duty, fitness or administration? Have you sought to better the team by sharing your talents or do you hoard knowledge as a means of leverage? Have you exerted maximum effort in showing stellar conduct, maturity, compassion and wisdom in your relationships with superiors, peers and subordinates?

The negative response to these questions may result in the deterioration and destruction of this beautiful romance with the Air Force that you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. Another consideration that perhaps worries you is the idea that the relationship you have with the Air Force will end too soon. This thought is always in the recesses of my mind every time the Air Force introduces new force management measures.

Regardless, the essence of an Air Force romance is like any other romance: “Put someone else first and give them everything you have until it hurts, and then give some more,” from Rock of Ages.

The Air Force romance, or any romance, cannot endure long under the practice of conditional giving, which was an undertone of a speech former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper delivered in the spring of 2009. At the end of his address, one quote in particular had welded itself around my mind: “Do the best you can with what you’ve been asked to do. Right here, right now.”

What a practical message: Apply maximum effort to those things which you actually control. Someone I greatly respect once told me that you’ll only get as much out of anything as what you put into it. Your romance with the Air Force is no different. In an attempt to halt this romance from dancing to the lyrics of Cinderella’s song, my charter is simple: Do something great for yourself and make the romance you have with the Air Force the very best it can be. If you haven’t given your best to that relationship, you may unfortunately find yourself on the outside looking in and remembering that you, “Don’t know what you got (till it’s gone).”




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

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