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Putting family first ensures resilient Airmen

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Doug Edwards
  • 906th Air Refueling Squadron commander
An Airman is a focused, effective and resilient warrior when he is part of a family and community, and knows that his family will be cared for whether he is at home or deployed. Warrior culture in our service builds the foundation that drives us to overcome great challenges to get the mission done. To sustain that performance in a healthy way, our Airmen need to know we are there to help their families when the call comes to deploy or when they are going through a time of need.

We train and fight everyday to ensure we are successful in our mission. Our Air Force "business model" leverages our no-fail, mission-always prescription. I am confident that the warrior ethos cannot be withered away. It is not automatic--we have to exercise, train and fight like warrior's everyday. However, to bolster our warrior ethos, we also need to put our families first every day.

A family-first culture must be built and nurtured from the inside out. It starts when the commander and first sergeant show this is important to them, and then by educating the Airmen on why it's important as a squadron. We can tell our Airmen to put the family first in their lives but that is oftentimes not enough. We need to build a community and environment where families do come first.

Our single Airmen and military families need to feel like they have a home with brothers and sisters who care about them. A squadron focused on this aspect involves more than just the commander and first sergeant. It also involves the supervisors, Airmen, and key spouses working together to build a relationship with each family.

At first glance, a family-first culture may seem like a huge undertaking that requires a lot of resources. This is far from the truth. The most basic part of a family-first culture is being focused on useful and consistent communication to our members and their families. In my unit, the 906th Air Refueling Squadron, we have joined together to build a community with a focus on establishing and maintaining a relationship with our families.

There are many easy, but purposeful, things we can do to keep our squadron community strong. The key spouses' ability to keep the families informed about base services, community events and squadron activities help make them feel connected and included.
Welcoming a new family helps them feel like they are part of the unit. In my squadron, our spouses welcome each new spouse in person. Supporting families with meals during pregnancies or times of need is also an excellent opportunity to put the family first. And, in a time a need, we are all in, no questions asked.

We can push our Airmen hard in the mission, and I am always proud of their effort, professionalism and performance. When we push them hard, we also need to know that they can handle it and sustain it, anytime, anywhere, and for long periods of time. Their ability to handle this pressure is greatly compromised when they are worried about their families and when there is no sense of community in their units. When this occurs, our Airmen are not going to be as focused, resilient or as committed as they could be.

We will always get it done--that is who we are. However, we can be stronger, healthier, and more resilient if we put family first. An Airman, whose family is supported when he or she needs it and is immersed in a community, is an Airman who can be a focused, resilient warrior.