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The most important thing we do

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hornitschek
  • 375 Air Mobility Wing commander
As commander of the 375 AMW I think about the fantastic Airmen we have on Scott every single day. I think about the ones who have deployed or who are currently serving on the frontlines, oftentimes in harsh unforgivable conditions and in harm's way. I've said goodbye and have wished them well as they left, always saying a prayer for their safe return.

As a leader it is never an easy thing to send someone to a war-zone, to say goodbye, and to not know what lies ahead. It's scary for family members and can be overwhelming for our junior service members, especially if this is their first deployment. Thankfully we have best trained and equipped air force in the world and family and friends who understand--they may not like it--but they understand why we leave and why we dedicate ourselves to this service.

These families are our secret weapon and what they do to support our Airmen helps keep America's lamp burning bright. I remember even as I left for my first deployment three months after getting married, the effect that my wife, Polly, had on my success. I know I had her unwavering support, and the pride was mine for all the work she did back home to raise our family through subsequent deployments in addition to cheering and comforting other spouses who were worried or concerned.

Polly still plays an important role in providing service to families and keeping everyone thinking positively. Having a strong support system like that is a force multiplier because we've all seen people in the war zone that cannot function because they're distraught over what's happening at home. We must focus on our missions and not be distracted. Strong families help ensure mission execution more than they realize.

Having these strong family relationships is so important because every day we are reminded not to take it for granted. Since I've been in command, there have been 61 fallen service members who have come through Scott Air Force Base bound for their final resting place. These fallen heroes are our blood and treasure, and it's difficult to know there is a 100% certainty that on the aircraft's next or second stop there will be grieving family waiting on a tarmac somewhere for the final return of their loved one.

I know I am reminded of the important things in life ... and the important people in my life as I watched brothers, fathers, and battle buddies escort those closest to them home. It is crystal clear that we must not take our families for granted. We must nurture those relationships with our significant others and children and make the most of every day.

I've said it before, and it bears repeating, that we all must find ways to balance our lives with the work we do and the lives we choose to live. Because when it's said and done, what will be our legacy? What will be remembered about us? Will we have left this world a better place? Are you satisfied with the answers you'd have to give to these questions today?

Those 61 men and women have left the world a better place, even though there's emptiness now for their families. I hope that knowing they died honorably and in the service of their country will provide some measure of comfort for them.

These are the things I think about when I'm asking us to make sure our Airmen are trained and ready, and understand the mission--that they and their family have built resiliency into their lives. It's what's on my mind as I ask you to take time to be with your families as you work hard for your country. Being in today's armed forces is no easy task‚--I think of no more challenging occupation--and there are many inconveniences and sacrifices required. I want you to know that I appreciate your efforts and especially the support of your families. Together we'll work on keeping the right balance, ensuring the mission gets done and making sure those who do deploy are the best trained and equipped and prepared Airmen possible ... because it's the most important thing we do.