The Pursuit of Happiness

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Duncan G. Hughes
  • 4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron commander
As I sat writing during the four-day weekend during our nation's 235th celebration of Independence Day, I was reminded of the unalienable rights declared by our forefathers. In the second sentence of their declaration, the authors quilled: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The pursuit of happiness, what an interesting and purposeful choice of words. As American citizens, we have the sovereign right to seek fulfillment, contentment and joy in our daily lives. There is an NCO in my squadron using the opportunities afforded by his Air Force career to do just that. This individual's recent performance and background helped me recognize yet another example of how "the Air Force life" provides a veritable smorgasbord of opportunities, not the least of which being choice in one's pursuit of happiness and fulfillment.

While most of Air Combat Command was enjoying their 4th of July four-day holiday weekend, this NCO was busy deciding how to best capitalize upon the additional three days off he earned. Recently, this Airman received a promotion notification, a score above 90 on his physical training test, which earns a one-day pass in my squadron, and was awarded squadron and group NCO of the quarter, also both yielding an additional one-day pass each.

While this individual has certainly taken full advantage of the incentives put forth to compel and reward excellence, that is not what raised my eyebrows about his accomplishments. What struck me so impressively was that, a year ago, this NCO was not even a medic, yet; here he is leading the way. This individual seized upon one of the opportunities the Air Force provides and decided to cross-train into a new career field.

Not having realized the fulfillment or happiness he anticipated in his original Air Force specialty code duties, this NCO changed career fields, attended the required technical training for the new career and uprooted to relocate at the new assignment. Not once during this transition and retraining period did this Airman's paycheck ever stop or diminish, nor did any of his retraining or relocation cost him any time toward his retirement plan. I'd wager it would take you more than a little effort to duplicate those benefits in the civilian sector!

The Air Force was able to retain an asset who understands the big picture. In fact, I would argue that the new bioenvironmental engineer my squadron got out of this deal is, indeed, stronger than one I would have received in another situation. In his new career, this Airman performs workplace hazard surveillance and assessment in the very shops he previously worked. Who better to know what the hazards are, where to look for them and when to sample for them than someone who spent years working with them?

In the end, this NCO was able to seek fulfillment and pursue personal happiness. I would contend that both he and the Air Force are stronger for it. While the Air Force life is not without its stressors, it is also replete with benefits, blessings and opportunities. Do not forget to stop and count your blessings when the next extra duty, detail or tasking comes your way. I'm sure you'll find it will take too long to bother finishing the count!