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The three legged stool

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kyle Hurwitz
  • 375th Logistics readiness squadron commander
Years ago I had the pleasure to work briefly for an up and coming Army colonel. That colonel used to compare a military unit to a three legged stool. He said, "One leg of the stool was the unit's mission, one leg was the unit's people, and one leg was the unit's families." He used to say if any of the three legs was weak or broken, the stool might collapse. Many times he would lament the fact that the first two legs (mission and people) of the stool got lots and lots of attention, but the third leg was often overlooked. That colonel is now a four star general and his name is Martin Dempsey. General Dempsey recently assumed his duties as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

To hear the now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff talk about the importance of supporting families gives me great faith that the Department of Defense will continue to lead the way when it comes to programs for caring for families. A few months ago the 375th Air Mobility Wing commander shared with his group and squadron commanders the results of a recent Christian Science Monitor poll. In the poll participants had been asked to rank their relative happiness with their employer. The poll was attempting to answer the question, "What is the most blissful place to work." The 1,000 participants included people who work for large and very successful Fortune 500 companies. The results of the survey were incredibly telling. The Air Force was ranked the fifth most blissful place to work, ahead of such distinguished companies as Microsoft and General Electric. The Air Force was even ranked ahead of the company that runs the supposed "happiest place on earth," the Walt Disney Corporation. The Army got in on the action as well, being ranked number 11 ahead of healthcare giant Johnson and Johnson and Cisco Systems.

According to the survey Air Force and other military participants ranked their services highly despite lengthy deployments and lower salaries. Researchers ascribed the high military scores to all the family programs the military has, which other employers don't. Additionally, military participants cited high growth opportunity, benefits, and job security as huge pluses of serving in the military. The Air Force has more programs and processes in place to support our families than probably any other organization in the world.

In less than two minutes I was able to ascertain that Scott's Airman and Family Readiness Center provides the following services: employment and transition assistance, relocation assistance/information and referral, personal and work life education, school liaison, Parent Advocates for Students and Schools, Exceptional Family Member Program coordinator, personal and family readiness, Hearts Apart Program, Key Spouse Program, personal and emergency financial readiness, survivor benefits and casualty assistance.

That list is not even all inclusive and the Airman and Family Readiness Center is just one of many organizations on the base dedicated to supporting our families. Chances are extremely high if you or your family needs support, or advice, or help, there is an office at Scott Air Force Base whose sole mission is to see that you get the help you need. I submit one way we can make these supporting institutions more effective is to ensure that leaders are aware of them. I have to admit prior to becoming a squadron commander, and my subsequent interactions with some of these supporting agencies, I didn't really even know some of them existed, or if I knew they existed, I wasn't sure exactly what they did. I am by no means an expert now, but at least now I know about many of the agencies, and more importantly, I know a great place to start when looking for help is the A&FRC.

I think we need to encourage supervisors to become aware of the great agencies and programs that are out there. The Air Force's Charge to a new Non Commissioned Officer says it point blank, "You are charged with maintaining the highest level of communication and rapport with subordinates and remaining attuned to their needs." A large part of every Airman is their families. Being attuned to subordinates needs implies being attuned to their families needs as well. Be proactive, talk to your flight superintendents and First Sergeant, I bet they can help educate you on the various support agencies that are out there. Pay some of the agencies a visit. Get to know who they are and what programs they offer.

Going back to that stool analogy the now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff uses--he focused on all three legs being strong to support the stool. Next time a troop of yours has a family issue wouldn't it be great if you were able to say, "I know just the place that can help--follow me."