Perspectives on leadership: Comprehensive Airman Fitness -- Daring to care

  • Published
  • By Gen. Raymond E. Johns Jr.
  • Air Mobility Command Commander
Air Mobility Command recently called up hundreds of Guard, Reserve and active duty Airmen to support Operations Odyssey Dawn and Unified Protector.

We gave these Airmen between 4 and 36 hours notice to get on an aircraft and forward deploy. These amazing Airmen answered the call to protect freedom and innocent lives. But, the consequence of our expeditionary force is that we often leave families and loved ones behind and ask them to pick up the pieces.

Right now a spouse of a deployed Airman is at home alone and having a very rough day. Maybe the children are sick, or the car broke down, or a water pipe broke and flooded the basement. While our bases have established a robust support network, it's often hard for Airmen and families to know when to ask for help. At those times, help needs to be delivered...sometimes right to the front door.

One base with particularly harsh winters recently found a unique way to deliver help -- the Airmen and spouse support network shovels driveways for those Airmen who are deployed. While shoveling the driveway, they also take the opportunity to knock on the door and check up on the Airmen's families.

On one day a spouse was out shoveling a driveway and knocked on the door just to check in. He found a mom with three sick children almost at her wit's end. He made a simple offer to pick up groceries for her because he dared to care. That offer of help, delivered when it was needed, made a world of difference in one family's life.

Although this great initiative can't be implemented at every base, this example highlights that we as Airmen and spouses should not wait by the phone for those in need to call. We must get a little bit nosy, find out what our Airmen and families need and be there to deliver it.

Now, it takes a lot of courage for these Airmen and spouses to reach out because our society has changed over the years. When I grew up and new families moved in, neighbors used to greet them with plates of cookies. Today, many of us never even meet our neighbors much less welcome interference from a nosy neighbor. The way we communicate with one another has changed too.

Thanks to technology, we can text and email constantly, but we've also become more isolated making it harder to actually physically reach out to one another. Yet, as leaders we cannot follow this societal trend. We must encourage and develop strong, connected Air Force communities, and we must "dare to care." I would offer Comprehensive Airman Fitness is just that simple -- it's about reaching out to deliver a helping hand.

There's a second story I want to share with you. Just a few months ago, one of our Airmen was going through significant personal difficulties. He began talking to the chaplain, and that helped, but everyone in his office realized he was still troubled. Then, one day he suddenly left work and didn't come back.

The Airmen who worked with him knew this was out of character and something wasn't right. When he didn't answer his phone, Airmen drove to his house to look for him. When they arrived, they quickly realized that although the garage door was closed, a vehicle was running inside.

The group forced the garage door open and found him passed out in his running car. Later, medical professionals would tell them, he was only minutes away from being non-revivable. Recognizing when someone needs help and delivering it -- even when you need to break down a garage door to reach them -- that is Comprehensive Airmen Fitness!