History repeats itself; be prepared

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mark McClain
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Director of Staff
That's what Chief John Finn and his wife Alice debated that morning: who it should be. Both were perfectly content to remain in bed. The weather was beautiful, it was Sunday, and all was right with the world. Their reverie was broken by the sounds of airplanes - it must be those Army aviators up early for drills...maybe - and then the sound that had to be a malfunctioning machine gun. But at 7:53 a.m.?

That was 65 years ago - almost to the day. The Finns soon learned that not all was right with the world, and before the day ended, more than 2,400 people had lost their lives, the Pacific fleet was largely in ruins, and our nation found itself embroiled in a war it was suddenly ill-equipped to prosecute.

What went wrong? Not a single thing, rather a series of things: Critical intelligence was received too late - it was sent via telegraph since the radio station was temporarily "down;" the radar signal was assumed to be a friendly formation; reports of a mini-sub sighting and engagement were discounted.

Distant history? The events of Sept. 11 would indicate otherwise.

Much as a world-class athlete must constantly exercise his or her body and spend seemingly ceaseless hours perfecting their technique, a military unit must exercise and hone its skills too. As you are all no doubt well aware we've exercised a good deal recently. You may wonder "is all this effort expended in preparation for an inspection worthwhile?" If that were the sole focus, I'd wonder with you. It's not.

Certainly, the Unit Compliance Inspection and Emergency Management Exercise are important and we have focused our efforts toward this event. Together these inspections verify our programs and validate our readiness to execute this wing's mission, come what may. But these inspections, and the exercises that lead up to them, are milestones, not the goal itself. The goal itself is to be ready for any crisis - a tall order when you really think about it - but that is our goal.

We've worked hard, members of this unit have, are, and will engage enemies of this country, preferably abroad, but at home if necessary. That is what we train for, that is what this inspection will validate, and that is ultimately what will prevent us from suffering events like the one that rocked this nation that fateful morning at Pearl Harbor, that day that will live in infamy.