My career - an exciting, challenging, great ride

  • Published
  • By Col. (Dr.) Otha L. Solomon Jr.
  • 71st Medical Group commander
It seems like yesterday when I first enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. The time goes by faster than you think. The majority of my adult life has been as a member of the armed forces. It has been an exciting, challenging and rewarding adventure. My career has been a great ride and I would like to share with you some lessons learned.

Change:  This is the most consistent and constant process in the Air Force. Technology has driven a tremendous change in the way business is accomplished.
Manning and changes in the enemy's tactics have also had an impact.

There are four distinctive generations of personnel working side-by-side in leadership and functional areas in the work force today -- each with its own distinguishing attributes and work ethics. Understanding and embracing the differences in generations are paramount for continued growth and improvements.

So, get to know who you are dealing with. Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century, or AFSO21, is a transformational endeavor that attempts to culturalize continuous process improvements. It drives change in behavior and value streams. This is a great vehicle to facilitate change. The best way to deal with change is to embrace it and work to make it happen.

Challenges:  Each new day brings about a different set of challenges. In our quest for excellence, we face these opportunities head-on. These challenges bring about new ideas and innovation. They are the keys to success and flexibility. Everyone in the organization brings something to the table from the highest ranking person to the lowest. Give your young Airmen an opportunity to contribute and you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Commitment:  I've found that the best way to ensure success is to make a commitment to the situation that you face. Pledge to yourself that you will endure and survive the challenges that you encounter. Commitment equals success.

Courage:  It takes courage to face the enemy and adversity. To fly, fight and win will necessitate all the courage that we can muster. Emotions, fear and danger are areas that we must overcome.

It will take courage and fortitude to make the hard decisions and do the right thing in our daily operations and dealing with people. Doing the right thing can be very hard and gut wrenching. The easy decision may not always be the best decision. Utilize your decision tree to determine your course of action.

Teamwork:  When members pull together and help each other, they learn and feel good about their accomplishments. There are four things to consider when team building. Share good ideas. Search for ways to assist your teammates. Recognize people for their good deeds and the things that they do well, even if it is with a mere pat on the back. And last, tell others when and what you need to get the job done.

You will know that you are on a strong team when work is fun and you look forward to returning the next day.

Self- preservation:  Take care of yourself. Physical exercise and proper nutrition can enhance your longevity and quality of life. Be aware that the four dimensions of wellness -- emotional, social, physical and spiritual -- help to keep us grounded. These dimensions are interrelated and affect your overall well-being.

Periodically, evaluate yourself to determine where you are and if you need a boost to enhance your confidence.

We truly have the best people in the world in our Air Force. If we're going to ask our Airmen to defend this great nation, then we owe it to them to give them the best opportunities for career development, the best opportunities to maximize their potential and provide the best possible training and standard of living.

I feel that the Air Force is achieving these objectives. You've received training that prepared you to do your jobs and will be beneficial in future deployments and humanitarian missions. In our expeditionary Air Force, as we deploy around the world, your skills can be used as political instruments to aid other countries in improving their situation and quality of life.

In this age of high technology, you will be afforded the opportunity to take advantage of some of the advances in your areas of expertise and contribute to its future. The Air Force has committed to modernization, but it doesn't come easy or cheap.

You will be asked to make sacrifices and changes that are required to move forward. You have a great future ahead of you that will offer you many opportunities. Make education a priority throughout your Air Force and professional career and doors will continue to open for you. Find enjoyment in your profession as it will be rewarding and make you happy to be a member of this great organization.

As I close, there is a poem by Christopher Logue that I would like to share with you. It is about confidence:

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It's too high!
So they came
and he pushed
and they flew.

So can you. Good luck in your career and God bless America. Proud to serve.