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Your internal voices carry important messages

Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell Kenui Balutski, the 71st Flying Training Wing command chief

Chief Master Sgt. M. Kenui Balutski, the 71st Flying Training Wing command chief

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Yes, I must admit that I've been hearing voices in my head for quite a while now. They start in the morning and persist throughout the day, constantly telling me what I should or shouldn't do. Sometimes I listen and sometimes I don't -- but regardless, I just can't seem to make the voices stop. For the most part, that's just fine by me.

Before someone sets me up for in-depth psychiatric analysis, here's something you should know about my voices. They're either the replayed directives of authority figures I've known throughout the years, the wise words of family or friends or the audible accounts of writings that I should trust and obey. In other words, they're my voices of reason, otherwise known as my conscience. Don't act so surprised. You have voices too.

Whenever my conscience speaks, I'm eventually forced to make a decision. I either listen to my internal Wingman, or take the easy way out and do my own thing. It all comes down to my willingness to listen.

A few months ago, our Silver Talon Honor Guard was detailed to perform military funeral honors for an Airman from Oklahoma who died while on active duty. This tasking resulted in the complete mobilization of our honor guard team in order to muster the 21 honor guard members needed to execute the complex ceremonies.

Once the team was gathered, they immediately started training. It had been many years since they had executed an active-duty funeral. On the morning of the funeral, the honor guard building was a beehive of activity. The team was fervently checking their ceremonial uniforms, rifles, and accoutrements before boarding the bus for the 90-minute drive to the funeral site.

As I walked across the parking lot to address the team before they left, I noticed Chaplain (Capt.) Randy Sellers headed for the rally point. As far as I knew, he wasn't supposed to attend the funeral since he was the acting Wing chaplain. I asked him if he was directed to participate. The answer he gave was one that I didn't expect.

He said he wasn't tasked to be there but his conscience kept telling him that he needed to go. He said it was a constant almost audible voice that told him to get in his blues and get on the bus with the team. He also told me that it wasn't the easy thing to do since he was one-deep that week and had a laundry list of things that he could or should be doing. Getting on that bus was going to put him a day behind, but he felt his internal Wingman urging him to attend the funeral. So he did.

When the team arrived at their destination and unpacked the bus, they realized that something was missing -- the automated bugle used to play taps at the end of the funeral ceremony. It was left behind in the morning's commotion and the honor guard was in a huge predicament. The capstone of military funeral honors, the playing of taps, could not be accomplished because of a mistake. At this point, there wasn't enough time to get a replacement bugle and a mild panic ensued.

In the midst of that panic, a gentle voice spoke up and said, "I can play taps." That voice belonged to Chaplain Sellers. After that revelation, a search-party was immediately dispatched and eventually found a trumpet in the band room at a local high school. Not a bugle, but fairly close. As it turned out, Chaplain Sellers also knew how to play the trumpet, but it had been many years since he had tried. So he prayed he would remember how, to honor the memory of the deceased Airman when the time came -- in 15 short minutes.

After the ceremony, many of the attendees commented about the beautiful rendition of taps that brought the funeral proceedings to its dignified end. An end made possible because someone listened to his "voice of reason" and did what he felt was right. If Chaplain Sellers had ignored the voice, there would have been a different end to this story.

The voices in your head may sound like your mom or dad, your training instructor, your third-grade teacher, your pastor or even yourself. If it tells you to do something good, honorable, ethical, legal, moral or beneficial to the mission, don't quibble -- just do it. You could be the pivotal link in mission completion, or the only one who could turn something from wrong to right.

Bottom line: Listen to your internal Wingman and realize that doing the right thing isn't always the easy thing.