Our trials are small compared to our purpose

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. William Browne
  • 25th Flying Training Squadron
Maj. Gen. Robin Rand reminded me of an important lesson a few weeks ago. During his lunch with Vance squadron commanders, he said the most important thing for us to remember is this: don't get jaded.

This won't be a shock to many, but sometimes I get jaded. And let me be perfectly honest -- although I'll admit to a predisposition towards the sarcastic -- in my experience, life in the Air Force offers plenty to beat you into a glass-half-empty attitude.

Let me use some of my recent experiences as examples:
  • Advanced Distributed Learning Service -- who doesn't enjoy a little online training? I spent 30 minutes on Fire Extinguisher training, and then burned to death, virtually, as I tried to pass the final "hands-on" test.
  • And then there was the four hours of Financial Management training to ensure I didn't buy Happy Meals with our government purchase card. I thought that was common sense.
  • Additional duties, we got them. I counted 58 on our additional-duty roster, and that's not counting the duties internal to our squadron.
  • And of course, there's the never ending struggle to stay on the timeline, despite the abysmal weather or manning shortfalls. The students just keep showing up, and we've got to churn them out.
It's a challenge not to feel like a cog in a machine. I'm reminded of the Seinfeld character, Newman, and his explanation for postal worker violence: "The mail never stops! It just keeps coming and coming and coming, there's never a let-up! It's relentless!"

I don't think I'm going out on a limb to say that most folks share similar frustrations, but General Rand reminded me not to let these harden our attitudes, and here's why.

Once you set a negative tone, it's hard to right the ship. This is a tough one for me, as I am acutely conscious of the perils of sounding insincere versus telling it like it is. The challenge is to find the middle ground. It is awfully hard to fulfill your commander's intent with a bad attitude, and bad attitudes are contagious.

But all these frustrations are mostly small potatoes in the big scheme of things. The truly important things include what many Vance Airmen know -- who have served or are serving in the area of responsibility -- we are in a shooting war.

And every three weeks I get to tell the friends and families of our newest pilots some more of those truly important things:
  • The United States Air Force is the most respected air force in the world; the closest competitor is a distant second. Our dominance has become accepted on a global scale.
  • Your sons and daughters are the finest new military pilots in the world, created by a pilot-training system perfected over decades. They are the best that exist.
  • It is our privilege and honor to have trained these young men and women.
Are there valid beefs with how we do business? Sure. I'm frustrated all the time. But what a great life this is, and how small our trials seem compared to our purpose.