We, the people: Staying connected in a disconnected world

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Brendan Hopkins
  • 458th Airlift Squadron commander

Scott Air Force Base, Ill. – We, the people, of which all are created equal, instituted a government of, by, and for the people—the foundation of our great nation.

The power of our Constitution, that for which our founders pledged their sacred honor and for which we swear our oath, is unequivocally the people.   

This is not a new concept to us, however, in 1776 the idea that we inherently held “unalienable rights” was novel and uniquely American. These rights that are “impossible to take away” include life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Our Air Force core values are similarly “unalienable” from our service and will forever be synonymous with what we hold most dear.

Integrity: We are entrusted with our nation’s security and the precious lives of her sons and daughters. We must be honest, because human lives depend on it.

Service: Gen. John P. Jumper, former Air Force Chief of Staff, said it best, “Service Before Self is that virtue within us all which elevates the human spirit, compels us to reach beyond our meager selves to attach our spirit to something bigger than we are.”

Excellence: The organization’s success is based on each individual, each human being, maximizing his or her potential and investing in our nation's most precious resource, the people.

When we face troubled and deeply divided times, we must do what we can to stay connected to each other. This unity is critical for our success, as President Lincoln remarked, “A house divided cannot stand.”

Recent events highlight a great divide, a foundational fissure in our human connectedness, which, left untended, jeopardizes the very core of our service and our nation. The ideological chasm of our time permeates every topic creating camps of binary opposition that has the potential to erode good order and discipline and the very culture of our organizations.  Compounded by COVID-19 and a year of tribal isolationism, we are at a moment of historical inflection where leaders must invest in connectedness.

This is much more than inclusion and belonging, far greater than an extremism down-day, this is a foundational repair, a reprograming of how we as Airman, as human beings, view and value the world. It is not a question of people versus mission, but rather people versus people and how we move forward.

Our nation is, and always will be, a human endeavor and achievement. Gen. George S. Patton said, “Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men. It is the spirit of men who follow and of the man who leads that gains the victory.”

Our obligation as Airmen, defenders of our republic, is to protect and invest in this human endeavor. More importantly, as leaders and supervisors, we must concentrate on the human connectedness of our organizations. Managing resources is a requirement, and executing the mission must not fail, but now more than ever, we must lead our Airmen.

It’s time for more people work and less paperwork! We must be more than present. We must drive others to be present; physically, mentally, and spiritually present in the unit, the mission, their community and their country. We must listen with the intent to learn, not just to the loud voices, but the humble, the unamplified and the muffled. We cannot remain silent because it is complicated, or difficult. We must lean in and fully embrace the uncomfortable, for it is in discomfort that we find growth … growth as an individual, a team, an organization, a country.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones, a Nigerian American author, speaker and digital strategist, said, “The human voice is the only instrument we all play.” Let us all create orchestras in our unit and compose symphonies like our national security depends on it. Let our collective voices harmonize, unite, and connect each other to our mission … the defense of our Constitution and protection of all people!