Commentary

August 3, 2012

What’s your story?

by Col. Jonathan Sutherland
Schriever AFB, Colo.

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.


 
 

 

Holiday reflection illuminates successful year

Despite the increased activity the holiday season often brings, this time of year also presents an opportunity for reflection. I would like to thank all AFMC personnel for your exceptional dedication and professionalism in meeting our mission of equipping our Air Force for world dominant airpower. I also thank your families and loved ones for...
 
 

Holiday message from 412th CC

Team, The holidays are here and Debbie and I would like to express our sincere thanks to each and every one of you who continue to make the 412th Test Wing the premier Air Force enterprise to work for and Edwards the best base to be stationed. We continue to be amazed at all your...
 
 

Tis the season to drink responsibly

It’s that time of year when holiday parties and late night celebrations begin to fill our calendars and we look forward to spending time with family and friends to celebrate our own special reasons for the season. Every Christmas Eve, I celebrate my life and I give thanks for being able to share the holiday...
 

 

Finding lifeís new direction after a loss

Sometimes it takes a difficult situation in your life to not only be reminded of the things you are truly grateful for, but also to serve as a catalyst for change. That moment for me came during the beginning of 2012 when my mother died suddenly at just 43 years old. We had just finished...
 
 

Gaining Altitude – Growth Opportunities for the Week

Through our character – an opportunity to reflect on important issues in our community - Next week the celebration of Hanukkah begins. This eight-day celebration is also known as the Festival of Lights and/or the Feast of Dedication. It is holiday that celebrates the re-dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean...
 
 

Sexual assault everyone’s business

I walked in the bathroom and blood was everywhere. It looked like a murder scene. I looked up and there she was sitting on the toilet hunched over and crying. When I asked what happened she didn’t respond. She couldn’t talk. I was terrified and confused as to what happened. Why was she bleeding so...
 




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>