71st LRS commander remembers life's lessons learned

  • Published
  • By Maj Robin Hill
  • 71st Logistics Readiness Squadron
"As I look back over my life, and think things over, I can truly say I've been blessed, I have a testimony"
African American spiritual
Every year as the African American History Month festivities wind down, I begin to look back over history and my life.
I think about where I am, how I got here and the sacrifices made for me to be here.
The conclusion I reach is always the same. I've been extremely blessed to have a village of people who cared so much about me that some even let me borrow their life before I was ever born. The only thing they wanted in return was a better life for me, with a little interest. The interest I owe is my commitment to bridge the gap from their generation to future generations. I've discovered one way I can begin paying my debt is through sharing some of the lessons I've learned with other village members who could benefit from them.
I've always known the United States of America is the greatest country on planet Earth. I've learned there are thousands of people all over the world dying just to be like us or to get here. I've also learned there are a lot of us who take what we have for granted. My forefather-debt grows when I see a Super Bowl halftime show dominate the news headlines for an entire week yet we hardly see or care for the story of our troops who died in war-torn regions during the same period. What happened to all the reporters begging for the right to do ground correspondence with our troops? Why have their sacrifices been pushed to the last page of the B section? Fortunately, that debt is offset a little when I see and think of the many National Guard and Reserve troops who have volunteered to put their families and lives on hold for 12, 18 and sometimes 24 months to protect Team Vance and other Air Force bases around the world. Thank you.
I've been fortunate enough in my career to work hand-in-hand with some amazing people. Most people couldn't fathom drinking tea with the Secretary of the Air Force in his private office or making small talk with presidential staffers, but I have. Each has shared a life lesson that can ring truth in a lot of people's lives. But I've learned that mentorship doesn't always come from above. As a young lieutenant, I was taught a great lesson by a technical sergeant. He pulled me aside one day just to tell me that regardless of what's on your sleeves or shoulders everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Thanks friend.
Wouldn't you love to venture back in time, just to experience what the history books are talking about? Well, I've learned that history is forever ongoing and we're living it now. Ever since I read about him, I've always wanted to meet Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James. General James was the first African American four-star general in the Air Force. I finally got to meet him through his son, Lt Gen Daniel James III. I was amazed to discover that the younger General James lives a few houses down the street from the house he grew up in when his father was stationed in Washington, D.C. Both are short walking distances from my old house at Bolling AFB. General James III taught me about the discipline his father had as a minority pilot and his expectations at home. Hard work, discipline and true professionalism aren't just for generals. Thanks sir.
Have you ever felt lousy, either physically or emotionally? I've learned that if you need a quick boost, do something nice for someone. If you do it anonymously the reward is even greater. I was a busboy at a restaurant when I was in high school. Late one Friday night as I was ready to get off work, I remembered I was driving on gas fumes with a quarter in my pocket. A waitress I had known less than two weeks heard my story, silently came to me, gave me five dollars and walked away. I thought that was nice of her. Then I discovered waitresses there made $1.10 an hour plus tips. She never asked for that money back, but I think of her every time I eat out. I leave between 20 and 30 percent as a tip, and it feels good.
Finally, the most important lesson in my notebook was given to me first by Maj Gen Ken Hess and then by Gen Michael "Buzz" Moseley. I worked for General Hess when I first got to Washington, D.C. During my initial office call he asked if I had made a decision on where I would stay. I told him my wife wanted to stay in Maryland to be near family, but I was leaning towards Virginia. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You don't understand, this ain't about you." He told me how military members join a family when we come on active duty. That family support network is wherever we go. We don't need much adjustment time. Our spouses and children don't have that luxury. They have to rebuild friendships and relationships every time we move. Therefore, when we have an opportunity to put them near a strong family support system, "you do it." We didn't stay in Virginia.
General Moseley's one of the finest officers I have ever worked for. He wanted to make sure we knew what our priorities were and gave me two things to remember. First, make sure you take care of your family and yourself, and second, at the end of the day our job is to drop bombs on target and blow up stuff. You're right sir, the war isn't won inside cubicles or with staff summary sheets. Thanks.