Putting first things first

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- Upon our arrival in June, my family and I received the warmest welcome ever, and we are blessed to be part of the Incirlik Family. The past two months have been fast and furious, and it's hard to believe the end of summer is near. As you wrap up work and prepare to celebrate Labor Day weekend, I appreciate the opportunity to share my perspective on work and family and the importance of putting first things first.

Reflecting on Air Force core values, it's paramount that integrity is first, because it's the bedrock on which to build service before self and excellence in all we do. One of the first things I emphasized in the squadron was the importance of creating a healthy work environment, establishing outlets for anxiety and stress, and emphasizing wingmen principles to keep each other in check. As we strengthened communication, we improved our ability to discuss challenges and thoughtfully analyze operations, ensuring we are doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons.

The 39th Operations Squadron is "Exceptionally Trained and Always Ready" as we provide world-class airfield management, air traffic control, weapons range coordination, intelligence and weather support to joint and coalition forces in Turkey, NATO and Overseas Contingency Operations. We perform our mission 24 hours a day, 365 days a year through eight-hour rotating shift work, as well as 12-hour shifts to provide exceptional customer service. As you can imagine, these shifts are burdensome, and over time, they can create stress for the individual and the family.

A few years ago, I read Andy Stanley's book "Choosing to Cheat" and he explained the dominant role of work and family that define an individual, as well as their colliding tendencies. Essentially, there is not enough time in a day to do everything we desire, so we end up "cheating"--making decisions to give up one thing in order to gain something else. Our decisions demonstrate our values, and we all face decisions to "cheat" work or "cheat" family. My desire is for my wife and children to know they are loved and prioritized, and I demonstrate it in the way I perform the mission.

One way I prioritize family is by discussing the upcoming week as a family and being flexible to prioritize their important events, such as the first day of school, dance class, medical appointments, spouse events, and learning to ride a bike. Schedule permitting, I tell my wife and kids I'll be there, and then I follow through. Another way I put first things first is giving my all to my family in the evenings and on weekends. Although there are unanswered e-mails and awaiting taskers, I prioritize connecting with the children and getting down on the floor to play, laugh, read books and tell stories until it's bed time. In our home, the computer and TV have to wait, and by dedicating this time to my wife and children, I've learned to be more efficient at work.

In closing, putting first things first will mean different things and necessitate different decisions from each of us. I encourage you to reflect on your priorities this Labor Day weekend and discuss them with the people who love you most. Any decisions you make to reinforce your priorities and put first things first will make all the difference at home ... and at work.