Airman’s Challenge: Balancing mission with family

  • Published
  • By Maj. Eric W. Crowell
  • 4th Communications Squadron
It's that time of year again. Summer is coming to an end, schools are starting back and deployment season is quickly approaching. It is easy to see how we, as Airmen who get pulled in more directions than usual, can lose our focus and balance between mission and family. As Airmen, we have mastered the skills of working harder, faster and more efficiently. We work long hours and extra days to ensure sorties are generated and that our fellow Airmen have what they need to fly, fight and win. We are focused and zeroed in on the mission and "we will not fail."

This blind dedication to service before self and excellence in all we do can come with a cost. That cost is a broken Airman and a broken family, which translates to a missed opportunity, a failed process and an inefficient mission. As leaders, we must establish the right balance for our Airmen to keep them centered and focused.

In order to be successful, we must establish an environment for success. First, we must clarify and hold true to our values, set realistic goals and expectations and establish priorities while managing time. This balancing of competing requirements applies to all our Airmen, to include commanders, first sergeants, front-line supervisors and front-line workers. We must set the example for each other, be wingmen, and not be afraid to nudge our fellow Airmen when the balance of mission and family gets one sided.

It was not long ago, when the boundaries between work and home, mission and family, were fairly clear. However, today, these lines blur as we face such challenges brought on by the advancements of technology, force downsizing, recapitalization of air assets, stand up of a cyber force, two wars, natural disasters, failing economy and the heroic effort to keep day-to-day operations and training at home station moving forward. The consequences of this tempo can result in a poor mission-to-family balance and will result in fatigue and lost time with friends and loved ones.

Studies point out that when you're tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly suffer and can lead to dangerous or costly mistakes. On the family front, if you're working too much, you can miss important family events and milestones, causing stress in relationships and lack of attentiveness at work. It does not have to be this way.

I know we have all heard this before, but it's important to remember, when your time in the service concludes and you pass through the door to the next chapter of your life, make sure your family is there to enjoy it with you. The one regret I hear at almost every retirement I have attended is the regret of lost opportunities and missed time with the family.

As Airmen, we must take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, not only in spending time with our families, but ensuring our families have the tools they need to be successful. Take advantage of the unique opportunity provided here at Seymour Johnson and go listen to Mrs. Ellie Kay as she shares her story and provides you the tools needed for financial success and the preparation tools needed for the family members left behind during a deployment. Take the time to attend resiliency training with your spouse and children and help prepare them to deal with the demands of your job.

Remember, planning, preparation and communication are essential to the success of balancing mission and family. When appropriate, leave work at work, manage your time, bolster your support system and nurture yourself. Take the time to discuss this balance with your family, schedule time and events, be willing to revise plans when needed and understand what you control and what you cannot control.

As you find that balance of mission and family, remember to enjoy the end of summer, look forward to the fall and start planning for the holidays with both your families, the one at home and the one at work. Ensure you establish a plan for success. Find the balance, understand the requirement and set the example!