From War to Peace

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Bob Shelton
  • 99th Air Refueling Squadron Commander
As I have recently taken command of the 99th Air Refueling Squadron, I see a tremendous task ahead of our military. Many of us have been at war since we entered the military and do not know what peacetime looks like. Every day, we hear the major media outlets echo our nation's leader's direction for retrograde and withdrawal from protracted conflict. When this happens, we are charged with successfully transitioning our units and our lives from the expeditionary fighting force that we've mastered for more than a decade and return to an in-garrison force. I don't know about you, but I haven't found an instruction or regulation that sums that up very well. That said, answer this ... "What's our future look like if we really come home, what should we focus on, and how do we get there from here?"

When I asked myself the same questions, two primary focal areas became evident: our future warfighting Force and our Families. As we transition to an in-garrison force we'll be faced with the difficult issues of standards (ethical, moral, cultural, health/fitness, etc.), reconstituting a war-weary force, capturing lessons learned from years of protracted conflict and training for our nation's next conflict. All of these issues will be tackled in an environment of declining resources and personnel. To succeed, we must be diligent to reflect and think critically so we can pull those warfighting skills off the shelf and powerfully answer the next call whenever it may come.

Beyond the task of transitioning in the workplace, one additional responsibility and focal point, the heartbeat of our Air Force, remains to be discussed. Our greatest responsibility is to our warfighters, the Airmen, and their families. We must ensure our FAMILY, the foundation of our future Force, is strong. Time and again, history shows that the institution built on a weak foundation will eventually topple. Our families, both personal and unit, are critically intertwined with the health and strength of our Air Force.

Returning full-time to our families will mean happy homecomings, dealing with hard issues, and healing wounds both visible and invisible. The key to whatever the "new normal" is will be leadership and communication. We've been living dual lives and now we must come back together at home and in previously empty workplaces to redefine normal. It's time to take stock and do a thorough self-assessment on issues like your marriage and relationships, finances, health and happiness and physical fitness. Ask yourself tough questions, like ... Am I really living within my means if the "downrange" pay dries up, or How do I "talk" to my loved one face-to-face, rather than via electronic medium? Don't wait for hard issues to find you! When problems arise, and they will, we have world-class professional resources and agencies available for you and your loved ones ... it just takes communicating the need.

Please know that your leadership is committed to our Air Force family. As Airmen, we must be good Wingmen now more than ever! Don't be afraid to ask the hard question or to seek out help. As fellow Airmen and leaders, we are here for you and we are privileged to lead the most talented and amazing Airmen in history. Thank you for your service to our Air Force and the United States of America!