My New Year's Resolution? A sense of perspective

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- My family and I travelled over the holidays. As we were boarding a flight at a relatively remote location, my daughter dropped the last bit of her ice cream cone in a trash bin. She noticed a little old lady going through that same trash bin eating anything she could find, to include the last bit of my daughter's ice cream cone. In contrast to that little old lady, my family was getting ready to board another airplane to fly to another destination in air conditioned comfort while being fed yet again. My daughter asked me why that little old lady was going through the trash looking for food. We discussed this event for the duration of our trip, and I believe it opened my daughter's eyes a bit to the broad range of life experiences that exist in the world today.

Why do I bring this story up? Because for me, it highlights a long held belief of mine--a sense of perspective elevates, while loss of that perspective can mire you in the unimportant. So much of what we do as Airmen is time critical with zero tolerance for error and extraordinary consequences for failure. Maintaining perspective maintains focus on the mission.

It's so easy to lose perspective. Life's little challenges (bills, flat tire, Christmas lights still up, fridge is empty, etc.) are often tied to a companion set of professional challenges (PME, e-mail, inspection and execution, awards packages, etc.). Taken together, these items draw you away from a healthy perspective of what you do for a living as a member of the armed forces. I often remind my Airmen that the runway on this base is similar to an artery, bringing lifeblood to support the fight downrange. Every day, we feed the effort that moves materiel and personnel downrange to change people's lives. At the end of the train of supplies we send downrange is a member of the coalition force interacting with someone on the ground in either Iraq or Afghanistan. That someone is having their life changed as a direct result of the efforts of this base and our mission. That person who was just fighting for survival may now be having a school built, a marketplace restored or simply provided a place to live free of danger. Many lives will be changed because of our efforts.

So, back to my New Year's resolution--a sense of perspective. When the little things begin to diffuse my focus on the truly important things in life, I will shake it off. I will take a moment to watch that next plane depart, understand my place in the long train of events that continue the cargo on its way, and return my focus to what matters: a sense of perspective grounded in mission, family and friends. I ask you to do the same.