To my extended family -- Thank you for your service, friendship

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Robert Capozzella
  • 33rd Flying Training Squadron commander
As many of you know, my house was hit by a tornado the night of April 25 this year. This incident was not significant in itself. 

The damage, inconvenience and headache of trying to fix my house as I prepare for a permanent change of station will pass, but what will stick with me is the response my family and I received. 

Within minutes of the strike, there was a deluge of phone calls and a dozen visitors on my doorstep -- or what was left of it -- wanting to make sure we were okay and to see if there was anything they could do. 

The next morning was even more impressive. There were more people in my house and yard than in the entire neighborhood. Within four hours, the debris was removed, roof patched, windows boarded up, and my house was habitable again. 

Who were all these people? No, they were not all opportunists looking to take advantage of the situation, but rather what I consider to be my extended family. They were the men and women of the 33rd Flying Training Squadron and their spouses, and a few other friends we have made in Enid and at Vance. 

It was this outpouring of good will and support that has solidified in my mind what has made my time here and in the U.S. Air Force so rewarding. 

I have spent the last two years, 10 months and six days -- but who is counting -- here in sunny and windy Enid with the occasional tornado. I can say unequivocally that this has been one of the best tours of my 20 years in the Air Force. 

Of course, that is saying a lot, considering that I did an exchange tour to Australia and two tours in Europe. You may be wondering how on earth I can say something like that. Well, quite simply, it is all about the people. 

One of the greatest opportunities you have during your time in the U.S. armed forces is getting to meet a lot of great people, but it should go farther than just making their acquaintance. 

Now, you could treat your career like any 9-to-5 job and just show up at work and then go home without really getting to know those with whom you work. You can treat them like any other Joe you meet on the street. But if you do, then in my opinion, you are missing out and missing the whole point. 

What I am trying to say is you need to take advantage of your time in the service, get involved and get to know those around you. First, take the time to talk with them and learn not just what they do at work, but who they are when they are not in the office. 

Second, take part in the activities that occur outside normal work hours. This is not just the activities that occur within your squadron or those organized on the base. Venture out and see what is going on in the other units and in the community. 

I guarantee you will learn something, enjoy what you are doing and where you are stationed a lot more, and do better at your job. I pity those that just show up to work, do their job and go home. 

Those are typically the same people that complain about everything - what position they hold, who they work for, the base and ultimately where they live. I have been stationed at Cannon AFB, N.M., and Vance, two places not particularly popular outside of those who have been there, and can honestly say I enjoyed both assignments. I had a lot of fun because I got involved and made some great friends. 

Now, I cannot say for sure why so many helped us through the aftermath of the tornado. Was it simply good will or because of the relationships we have formed with them? I would say both. 

First, most who serve in the military and their families typically have at least one trait in common -- generosity to a fault. One of our Air Force core values is service before self. This is not simply that your service to our nation comes before thinking of yourself, but rather that we are here to serve - period. 

As I said when I took command of the 33rd FTS a year ago, a commander is responsible to his superiors to ensure the mission gets done. But in order to do that he serves those under his command, not the other way around. 

Take care of your people and they will take care of the mission. In turn, it is up to each of us to serve each other. Being a good Wingman doesn't take it far enough in my book. It is our duty to take care of our families, friends, those we work with, our community and our nation. 

"Give and it shall be given to you. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return." Luke 6:38. 

Second, building meaningful relationships not only makes going to work more enjoyable and where you live more fun, but it is also important as a support system for them and for you. You never know when you may need help or when you can offer aid to someone else. 

It is like having a parachute or ejection seat in your aircraft. You know it is there, but rarely do you think about it or all the people behind the scenes who maintain and check it to ensure it works when your life depends on it. 

Bottom line, it is not about how much time you have on this earth or spend in any particular place, but rather what you do with that time. In the end, you should not measure the success of any tour by how many accolades you win, but rather by the lasting impression you make and the lives you touch. 

I wake up every day with a smile on my face not just because flying airplanes is fun -- and it is -- or knowing I perform an important job -- and I do -- but because I get to work with great people that I consider to be my extended family. 

Thank you for your service and friendship.