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Air Force as family

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Recent events in the 354th Security Forces Squadron have reminded me of the incredible importance of every Air Force member adopting the concept that the Air Force is an extended family.

We recently had a member of the Eielson Defenders wounded in action in Afghanistan. In the hours and days after the event, the Air Force family rallied to the side of the spouse of the wounded member. A network of friends and coworkers established over the years from around the world made a lot of great things happen.

I would like to think that in every case, this is the way things would work out. It would be ideal that if every time there is a loss of a loved one, an injury, some major painful event or just a bad day, the Airman family would step in and make the most of a bad situation.

But I know that is not always the case.

Right now, you may be asking yourself, "So what, the issue got fixed, right?" Sure, the issue got fixed, but we as a family missed some opportunities somewhere.

Many of us came into the military at a fairly young age. We received a new wardrobe, way of life and then assigned somewhere possibly far away from our original families.

At that point, there were several possibilities. We could integrate into our new family; we could choose not to; we could have been kept from integrating by that family; or a combination of the three. And we replay this nearly every time we are reassigned. So what can we do?

First, it begins with the individual. I value my privacy and off duty time as much as anyone else. But I know as a leader and as a member of the Air Force family, I have to sacrifice some of that for the greater good.

Sometimes it's more important for my wife and me to engage with the family than to spend a quiet evening or weekend at home or outdoors hiking. We have invested ourselves with the Air Force, not just as a leadership team, but as individuals. We have made ourselves part of the family.

We all must do this.

Second, as organizations, we must create a sense of family. Sometimes that means mandatory fun for the section, squadron, group or wing. Sometimes that means sitting down with the new guy or girl and just getting to know them in a smaller setting.

Some of the best times of getting to know the new airman have been in the common room in the dormitory over a plate of pasta, or most recently on a glacier near Valdez.

There are a few things we need to ask ourselves. Have we, as individuals, done our part to become a piece of the Air Force family? Did we skip the section bowling night and then complain that we don't know anyone? When we get new folks into the family, did we really bring them in? Was the new staff sergeant and spouse's first meal on base in the home of a member of the family, or in the BX food court?

Finally, why does this matter? It matters because it's all about people. Without people, the Air Force is just an aircraft storage lot. And since we are all away from family, we all need to do our part to truly make this our new family.