Celebrating Dependence Day, July 4, 2010

  • Published
  • By Col. Eric Gates
  • 39th Maintenance Group commander
Have a safe and enjoyable Dependence Day. What, you don't recognize the holiday? We celebrate it on the July fourth each year in honor of our forefathers who depended on their God, each other and the help of allies to gain their and our freedom as a nation. Oh, that's right! We normally call it Independence Day because we (like most children) think: "I can do it all by myself." We Airmen should know better, but it's amazing how many don't get it.

I heard of Dependence Day about 14 years ago from a wise Chaplain (Jim Browning) while stationed at Kunsan Air Base, Korea. He focused on our dependence on God, for his love and grace. He went on to share with us how God is dependable, no matter how unreliable we are; God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. However, the more I've thought about the concept of Dependence Day the more it seemed to mirror what I've learned throughout my brief time in the Air Force. There are few things we do in the military that are solo efforts.

The trainee relies on the supervisor/trainer for guidance, direction and documentation of new tasks mastered. The team chief is useless without a dependable crew to follow his direction. We count on a battle buddy to watch our back. Of course our mission is chocked full with examples of our dependence on one another. Many of us are called to monitor our own actions and health as well as the actions and wellness of those we work with to make sure our Airmen are ready to reliably, dependably preserve or perform certain critical capabilities at all times. Even the single seat fighter pilot depends on the intelligence troops for a thorough threat brief and the maintenance crew chief and load crew for a safe and reliable aircraft. Even the commander who makes the final decision in tough situations depends on the wise counsel and inputs of officers, senior noncommissioned officers, first sergeants, fellow commanders and technical experts before making the decision. I, like many of you, have also depended on my wife and family who have made me a much better person and officer. I readily count on my wife to keep the house and kids on track while I'm deployed, on a remote tour or just consumed by the demands of work. I've never been disappointed. I also depend on my family to share my joys and pick up my spirit on those rare occasions (no smirking kiddos) when I'm frustrated or sad - I'm so thankful for them.

Wow! This call to be dependable and to depend on others sounds like service before self and our wingman concept. We count on each Airman to effectively perform their duty no matter what. However, we all realize there are times, on and off-duty, when we expect people to be good wingmen - watching out for themselves and watching out for their fellow Airmen and buddies. It only seems natural then to remember our Dependence Day as we celebrate the United States' Independence Day.