Teamwork, Toughness, Positive Mental Attitude: Keys to our nation's demands

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Stan Lawrie
  • 384th Air Refueling Squadron
"Tough times don't last.. Tough people do," said Fisher DeBerry, one of the Air Force Academy's most memorable football coaches, who used this as a catch phrase to inspire his players to dig deep when the odds were stacked against us or when our team was facing overwhelming challenges.

Though we often used his message as encouragement for how to make it through the next grueling physical feat, I now understand that its meaning was much broader than that -- It was keen advice for dealing with the obstacles that presented themselves, made life difficult and took our eyes off of our goals.

Whether it was the daily stresses of the U.S. Air Force Academy workload, the training NCO discussing our personal shortfalls 50 decibels above normal conversational tones or worrying about a sick family member at home; his sound byte gave me strength when it felt like the world was conspiring against me.

When I remember back to those tough times, there was one more denominator that made a difference -- my teammates. A close friend is always worth their weight in gold when dealing with problems which seem bigger than your ability to handle them. I have also found when a friend was in trouble or in need, my problems seemed less dire and my ability to cope was enhanced when I focused less on my problems and more on being there for others...Servant Leadership.

Fast forward 17 years later and I am faced with similar challenges, with one additional multipurpose tool to help me deal with them and that is the knowledge that, by golly, Coach Deberry was right.

I realize that most every challenge I encounter is temporary, and in almost all cases I have the keys to get through it: a positive mental attitude, personal toughness and realizing the importance of my teammates in accomplishing goals. This knowledge has been enough to help me endure many hardships, shoulder many burdens and conquer obstacles set before me that I could not always have handled on my own.

As a commander of a highly tasked flying squadron, I see the challenges my Airmen and their families are facing from week to week and deployment to deployment. I have the utmost respect for the hardships that have been lain before them, and their willingness and ability to join together to overcome them.

The silent warriors on the home front are often burdened with sick children, holidays without their loved ones and the uncertainty of when their Airman are headed home. Similarly, our single members deal with paying bills for housing they never live in, the inability to develop personal relationships with other singles and expectations that they will deploy during "family" holidays so our Airmen with children can be home. With the current requirements of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya levied against our refueling assets, it is an understatement to say that these are "tough times."

However, I know that the only way we can weather this storm, is to continue to stand together, shoulder to shoulder, focusing on our fellow Airmen and their families. We need to continue to provide the servant leadership that is required to help others overcome their obstacles.

We will all be required to dig deep, be tough and help ourselves by helping those that are struggling all around us. I am proud to be leading the world's greatest Air Force members during this trying time. I take comfort in knowing that we shall overcome!