None of us can make it alone

  • Published
  • By Maj. Christopher Jackson
  • 71st Security Forces Squadron commander

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- Nov. 10, 2016, will mark two years' time on station for me here in Enid, America. When I reflect upon the things that have transpired during my command, be it a tragedy or triumph, there is one thing I have discovered to be certain.  None of us make it through our military experience without the help of a significant amount of others -- who are often smarter and more talented than we will ever know until they are called upon in a time of need.

The loss of Staff Sgt. Cristina Mendez deeply affected a lot of people on and off base. And deeply affected me as the commander.

Without the help of the Operations Group, Medical Group, Mission Support Group, chiefs, first sergeants, fellow commanders, and countless agencies I might not even be aware of, I would never have been able to navigate this tragedy on my own. 

That’s the crux of it.  No one truly goes it alone.  Serving the military is about the relationships you have with your superiors, peers and subordinates.  Our success depends on helping each other to create lasting results. 

During my time at Vance, countless Airmen have demonstrated that serving the military is not about you, and it's not about me, but about all about us.  The mission never is accomplished on the back of one person or organization.  We are all intertwined together. 

The great football coach Vince Lombardi said, "Individual commitment to a group effort -- that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, and civilization work." 

Team Vance embodies every category of that quote.  Our small society inside the fence line does not succeed without the efforts of every instructor, student, maintainer, doctor, lawyer, contractor or civilian. 

Much like the cogs in a machine, if one breaks, the entire machine stops working.  When Security Forces called upon your organizations for help last April, the machine ran as smoothly as I have seen anywhere.

The Security Forces and Team Vance leaned on each other.  We stood by each other and offered a helpful word or gesture and, in moments of pain, were able to embrace each other. We embraced not just as co-workers and friends, but as family. 

Since that tragedy, I have had many quiet moments where I reflect on our loss and pay tribute to Cristina -- the smile that drew people in and the magnitude of her impact. 

In moments of adversity and loss, we may not realize that the way we view events around us has altered and how we approach something might change.  It is important to be able to talk about what has happened with someone we trust--a spouse, a friend, a counselor or a chaplain. 

At Vance Air Force Base, we are very lucky to have such a supportive, strong Airmen & Family Readiness Center, Mental Health Clinic, and Chaplain Corps who is dedicated to our mission.  I encourage anyone who is struggling with loss or life difficulties to reach out for their services. 

I will close by saying thank you to all that helped Security Forces through our time of loss.  Whether you directly contributed to the memorial, or simply kept us in your thoughts and prayers, you helped Security Forces mourn and memorialize the loss of a truly great Defender – Staff Sgt. Cristina Mendez.