Year of the Air Force Family – It starts with you

  • Published
  • By Col. Patrick Doherty
  • 4th Fighter Wing commander
First off, I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for being a part of the Air Force family and Team Seymour. Each of you serves our nation and the greater good, whether you are active duty, reserve, a dependent spouse, a military child or a retiree. It does not matter whether you are directly involved with the mission execution. Your interaction and influence with our Airmen postures our team for success each and every day. How do I know? I bring a perspective of being "in" the Air Force my entire life, as my father was an enlisted man in the Air Force and served 28 years on active duty as a boom operator and radio operator for the majority of his career in Strategic Air Command and retired as a Senior Master Sgt. while I was finishing up high school. Whether as a dependent or an Airman, I understand the ops tempo, pressures and stresses that families endure; making sacrifices as their spouse or parent are asked to routinely deploy and take on our nation's toughest challenges.

I also want you to know the 4th FW's leadership will continue to focus our energy and efforts toward taking care of you, our nation's greatest treasure. It does not matter whether it is a marriage seminar, counseling, quality of life initiatives, housing, education, recreational activities, religion, quality service, healthcare, community interaction or entertainment. We will ensure our team is doing our best to ensure you and your families are well cared for whether you are deployed or enjoying quality time at home. If we're not meeting standards, I want my team and I to know about it as soon as possible so we can make things right and ensure we are good stewards of your valuable time.

Over the years, I have found that time is probably one of our most valuable commodities that too often is wasted by our organizations, shops, and yes, each one of us. What if we worked smarter and focused more on mission success instead of simply working longer hours? What would you do if that resulted in a few extra hours given back to you a week? Would you spend it with your family? I hope so. I can tell you from my own experiences there is no better investment of your time than building those memories and healthy relationships amongst your family and loved ones. Have I always been successful at following this advice? I'm afraid not. Unfortunately, it has taken many years of marriage and parenting to appreciate the true value of this wisdom. I personally continue to improve and work on prioritizing correctly to ensure wasted or idle time is minimized to the maximum extent possible, giving that time back to my family so we are all mentally, socially, physically and spiritually fit for future challenges and opportunities.

I have served a large portion of my career during the shrinking of our military forces, or euphemistically called the "Peace Dividend" years, following the end of the Cold War. Interestingly, we have been engaged in six separate military conflicts requiring our services since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the last 20 years can be characterized by the phrase, "Do more with less." Is there a new way to think about the way we do business? Are there things we need to stop doing that don't add any real benefit to our people, organizations or combat capability? Can we sharpen our focus or ensure our energy and efforts are prioritized correctly? I have given out some initial guidance to group commanders, squadron commanders and chiefs to ensure we are all looking hard at our habit patterns and ourselves and cut ineffective or wasteful meetings and stop doing things that don't contribute to combat capability. Do we have some real challenges in the next six months with an Air Expeditionary Force launch and an Operational Readiness Inspection? Absolutely. It is going to take some new thinking and standardization along compliance guidelines to ensure our team is positioned for success and we truly achieve a sustainable combat readiness posture for the future.

We can only make this happen with disciplined-thinking Airmen and their families who are well rested and have healthy relationships. I also asked leadership teams to ensure all of our Airmen are planning their leave schedule well in advance, whether it is Disney World or staying at home and throwing a baseball in the backyard and spending quality time with our kids. Make time in the regular workweek to spend your time with your loved ones. I'm sure we all have those special memories as a child when our parents spent their time with us that are priceless. It will do us no good if we run our people out of energy, ideas and creativity. Please ensure you personally have coordinated your leave plans with your family and supervision to ensure no one is caught by surprise and our families pay the price for being unprepared. The success of Year of the Air Force Family is entirely up to you. It starts with you, but we'll be there to support you and your family on building memories that will last a lifetime.