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A Balancing Act

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- A few years ago I had the opportunity to attend the retirement ceremony of a well-known three-star general. I've been to quite a few military ceremonies and can accurately predict what the speakers will say at each type of ceremony. In all honesty, I've forgotten 99.9 percent of what I've heard at these ceremonies, but this day was different, as this general said something I'll never forget. As he thanked his wife for being a great spouse and mother, he told the audience that she had basically raised their four children by herself. As I reflected on that statement, I hoped that I'd never have to say that my wife raised our children by herself.

The Air Force demands a lot from us and duty regularly calls us away from our families. The phrase "service before self" implies that there are times when the needs of the Air Force will take priority over our duties as a husband, wife, father or mother. "Service before self" does not imply, however, that we must relinquish our family responsibilities. In fact, if you recall Colonel Stinnette's "three Fs" you'll know that one of the "Fs" stands for family. He understands that you need to balance your responsibilities as an Airman with those you have as the member of a family. All of us at Incirlik, accompanied or unaccompanied, are members of a family one way or another. That family may be the traditional group of people that we share a home with or it may be larger community groups that we're part of. Examples can include professional or fraternal organizations, social clubs and chapel or service groups. The bottom line is that as members of these "families" we need to devote time and effort to them.

What that means to each of us is that we need to prioritize our time on a daily basis. There will be times when we need to skip dinner with the family to finish a work-related project; but there will also be times when a work-related task can wait so we can spend an hour or three with our family. Some have said that our time is the most precious thing we can spend, so we need to spend it wisely.

News of the tragic death of another USAFE Airman, the ninth this year, reinforced this point. Life if fragile and there's no guarantee that we'll be here tomorrow. Balancing our time between work and family helps ensure we're not neglecting either. Of course, the only way to increase the time we have to spend with family is to take care of ourselves by making smart, safe choices.

The bottom line is that one day you'll walk away from the Air Force. Taking care of your family now will help ensure that you won't walk away alone.