NEW CASTLE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Del. --
As I prepare to circle back to the active component and officially hand over the reins to CMSgt Robbin Moore, I want to reach out and offer a huge thanks to you, the airmen of the 166th Airlift Wing and all members of the Delaware National Guard. My recent National Guard experience as Wing Command Chief, coupled with my previous position in the Air National Guard’s Senior Enlisted Leader Management Office (SELMO) absolutely stand firm as my best assignments in 27 years. The privilege to serve you has provided me with wonderful insight into the challenges, successes, and history/heritage/culture of this wing, as well as the Delaware National Guard and the Air National Guard as a whole. This insight will serve me well as I step into my new role at the Pentagon, where I’ll be evaluating Air Force business operations and exploiting programs like "Airmen Powered by Innovation" and "Continuous Process Improvement." Thanks to you, I will be much better prepared to recognize the vast spectrum of talent available across the service.
I’ve often shared my thoughts about the "Iceberg Principle" as it applies to the Guard. As I step away from this role, I find it worth discussing once more. The key is to not make assumptions based solely on what you see in your brothers- and sisters-in-arms. During global pandemics, social unrest, civil disobedience, economic uncertainty, shifting priorities, and personal challenges, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that there is more to us than our surface appearances might suggest. We are not simply an AFSC/MOS; we are not simply a "status;" we are not simply a Guard member. We are complex human beings who are defined much more by what you can’t see. For example, many of us have demanding civilian jobs; some of us have complicated family situations; a number of our members face social challenges that others can never understand; and some of us are part of the full-time force, yet face similar "identity crises" as our traditional force. It is a grave mistake to assume you know what lies "beneath the surface" based solely on someone’s physical characteristics, but embracing the fact that we are all different in ways we can’t see is necessary if we are to grow as individuals, as a force, and as a society.
While it may be tempting to assume that this Iceberg Principle is a challenge that we need to overcome, I offer that it actually presents an advantage that we must capitalize upon. The more complexity we possess below the surface, the more equipped we are to solve problems because we are able to employ a much greater pool of experiences to draw upon. For example, our experiences across military subcultures (service, component, rank, AFSC/MOS) offer each of us a different way of seeing the world, but it’s still through a common lens of military service that we share with other service members. My challenge to you is to look beyond what you see and focus on actively seeking what you don’t see.
The Guard is the perfect example of this Iceberg Principle because 70% of you serve in a military status one weekend each month. The other 28-29 days, you can be found serving the community in a multitude of roles such as airline pilots, civic leaders, corporate executives, cyber warriors, doctors, educators, first responders, homemakers, lawyers, state/federal technicians, etc. Your experiences arm you with a diversity of thought that simply cannot be matched by those of us who serve in the same role each day. However, don’t make the mistake of minimize the contribution the 30% who do serve as full-time military members. While they may not have the diverse range of roles, they do have a unique story with their own diverse set of experiences. Recognizing and appreciating this diversity is not a heavy lift. Simply start conversations, ask questions, and don’t shy away if discussions begin to feel awkward or uncomfortable. Make an effort to venture outside of your comfort zone and really listen to your brothers and sisters to learn about their stories. In addition, tell your story. You’ll be amazed how many people appreciate your vulnerability as you share your challenges, struggles, achievements, and victories.
By simply appreciating the fact that we all have a unique story to share and that our differences build a broader spectrum of diversity upon which we can attack problems and challenges, we will continue to see the Guard. This evolution, in itself, affirms the credibility of the Guard as the greatest, most diverse organization on the planet. Simply stated, no other organization calls on its members to doctrinally divide their service between country, state, community, employer, school, family, etc. That is why you so readily stand by for the call that you have been trained to answer.
The great fortune that I’ve had over the past four and a half years does not escape me and I do not take it for granted. I am a better airman, a better leader, and a better person for having had this precious time in the Guard. Immersing myself in the broad sea of talent, the diversity of thought, and the uniqueness of Guard men and women has given me a priceless gift. I am especially grateful for the opportunity to close this chapter with you, the airmen of the 166th Airlift Wing and all members of the Delaware National Guard. Thank you for arming me with the tools I need to continue making a positive contribution. Until our paths cross again, be safe, stay healthy, and never stop growing.