Let's revitalize the Air Force 'family'

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Henry L. Hayes Jr.
  • 42nd Medical Group First Sergeant
When I joined the Air Force, 19 years ago, I expected to integrate into a family. I was raised as an Army "brat," spent most of my memorable childhood overseas, and saw my parents share their lives with other military families. 

Those in uniform became my aunts and uncles, and their kids were like cousins.

Truthfully, I was closer to them than blood relatives. I believe watching my dad interact with other soldiers inspired me to seek the same for my future family and me.  

At my first base, the shop did a lot of things together. We worked hard and played
hard - together. At the start of Desert Storm, we worked 12-hour shifts, six days a week, for six months. We ate most of our meals as a shop, took breaks on the "stress relief court," and called a shift party every Friday night. We developed into a real family.

I remember Staff Sgt. Christopher "G-man" Gardner; he was the first one to "mentor" me.

He taught me where "the line" was, and what would happen if I crossed it. Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Attaway was my first rater. He was what we called a dinosaur, but he taught me to do things by the book. Tech. Sgt. Brian D. Stock taught me how to work hard ... the hard way. I was referred to as "little brother" and treated as such. 

We held shop "Olympics," fought battles for each other, and like most families we fought each other at times. The NCOs knew all about us and stayed in our business whether we liked it or not. And though I did not realize it then, I know now we all benefited greatly from this "attention."

They worked hard to make us good men and women, not just better Airmen. They lectured us on life issues, while teaching us the proper way to turn a wrench. I really miss those days ... we were family.

Recently, I met a supervisor who did not know where his subordinate lived. I encountered another who did not realize his ratee had been married for an entire year.

I was shocked when I heard of raters not contacting their subordinates even one single time when the members were deployed. Spouses left behind seemed to isolate themselves without so much as a call or email from a member in leadership. This does not reflect the family that I joined.

Back to basics is a commonly spouted phrase, rightly so. Family is the basic unit of society. We must restore that within our work centers!

How? By really getting to know what is going on in the lives of our people, caring and sharing our lives with each other. 

Take the opportunity to ask those questions that others shy away from. Look into the eyes of those around you and recognize when they are trying to hide their pain, and then extend a helping hand. Don't be afraid of subjects that may spark emotions. Be brave enough to "go there." Even if someone doesn't like it, they will appreciate it later.

We have to press past the distractions of being task saturated. As military members, we will always accomplish the mission; but will we fail people in the process? Let's get back to being a family. As with blood relatives, there will be times of anger, forgiveness, healing, confrontation, discipline, restoration, and celebration. 

When we are in combat, we could die together; why not share our lives while at home station? I'm willing to do my part to revitalize the Air Force "family" mind set.

How about you?