What I will miss – about Team Vance and the Air Force

  • Published
  • By Col. Jennifer Graham
  • 71st Mission Support Group commander
As I come to the close of my time here at Vance and my time in the active duty Air Force, I wanted to share those things that I will surely miss, in no particular order. 

Awards ceremonies: Whether quarterly or annual, professional military education graduations or NCO inductions, there is feeling of pride in Airmen, pride in self, pride in service when I see our Airmen standing tall in their service or mess dress uniforms, full of confidence and ready to take on the next set of challenges head on. 

I'll miss the celebration of milestones in a career and the looking back to ensure there are those postured to take my place. I'll miss rewarding Airmen. 

Track select/assignment nights: You've heard it before, but here at Vance we really do make dreams come true. I was fortunate to be part of the pilot training mission as a squadron commander at Laughlin AFB, Texas, and was pleased to learn I would be returning to this mission at Vance. 

These young aviators are courageous and committed. They leave us and go to war. I'll miss seeing the enthusiasm in their faces and I'll miss being a part of their success. 

Deployment send offs and welcome homes: I get an ache in my commander's heart when I send my Airmen downrange. I don't know what they will experience, what harm may come to them or if we've prepared them in training for all they might be asked to do. 

When I welcome them home, it is a different kind of ache. Clearly, I'm relieved and thankful they are safe -- but they have a different, more mature look in their eyes.
We'll never know all of what they were exposed to, involved with or witnessed. I'll miss worrying about them. I'll miss being immensely proud of them. 

Small-town talks across Oklahoma: I've sung from a 1952 song book with the people of Drummond, talked with all the school children of Dover and participated in heartwarming Memorial Day ceremonies at Woodring, Kingfisher and Alva. 

I gave a leadership lesson to tri-county young adults in Boiling Springs and talked with Vietnam Veterans in Piedmont. Having the opportunity to meet, visit and talk with these many small town mid-America patriots has been a highlight of this tour. I'll miss their genuine love of country. 

Gems of Vance: There are things Team Vance does that are unique -- not replicated at any other base I've been. Events like Singles International Gourmet Meal Opportunity, Enlisted Appreciation Night, Camp Tomahawk and the 2008 Air Show/Open House. Events where people from across our community come together in fellowship with a volunteering and generous spirit to make a difference. 

I will miss the people of Team Vance, who regardless of the uniform, lean into the mission and the community in positive ways. 

Sharing success: Words cannot adequately express the feeling you get as a commander when you see your Airmen succeed. Particularly those who have fallen short in the past and have stood at attention in front of my desk while I've taken a stripe or given a stern reprimand because their failure has cost the mission or inflicted harm on someone else. But in the end they get it together, focus, begin to walk a bit taller, start volunteering, enroll in off-duty education and win Airman of the month. 

I'll miss those Airmen I helped save. 

Generosity: There is a mystery woman who ensures we have Bath and Body Works hand soap in the female restroom on the second floor of Bldg. 500. I don't know who she is or why she spends her time and money to keep us supplied with high quality soap. 

She represents so many people across our Air Force who give of themselves freely and without thought of reward or gratitude. I'll miss the mystery woman. 

Base chapel: My chapel family, wherever I've been assigned, has always held a special and meaningful place in my Air Force. Spiritual support takes on a more critical dimension when in command. 

As your peer group shrinks and the fish bowl becomes larger and more transparent, personal and professional pressures can mount. My chapel family has no rank -- just loving and comforting words. I will miss them. 

Commander's calls: Over the years the size and diversity of the calls have changed -- from smaller groups of enlisted Airmen to larger groups with civilians and contractors. But the importance and necessity remains the same. 

I'm the commander, standing in front of my team, communicating the mission, my vision and our priorities, solidifying the chain of command and setting the standards. Most importantly, I'm accountable. Though the yoke of command is weighty I will miss it. 

Finally, I'll miss retreat: While the frequency and style has changed from assignment to assignment, the purpose has not. This solemn time when we stand side by side and are reminded we all belong to something larger than ourselves. Something those before and those after are willing to sacrifice for. Something we are willing to fight to protect. 

Listen to taps play. Yes, I will miss retreat.