Taking the 'Air Force family' to a new level

  • Published
  • By Chap. (Capt.) Gregory Brunson
  • Joint Base Charleston Chapel
"Someone's knocking at the door again! Is it really time to go to breakfast?" Those words crossed my mind many times, early in the morning as I woke to find the "Air Force Mafia" standing outside my room. I would quickly grab my cover and step outside into the hazy Afghanistan morning. It was almost a straight shot from our rooms to the dining facility. This was the third place we would call home during the deployment but the ritual stayed the same. Every morning five company grade officers would go from room to room knocking on each other's doors trying to guess who was going to breakfast and talking about who stayed up to watch the Florida State game to the early hours of the morning.

We called ourselves the "Mafia" because we were five Air Force CGO's living in a predominantly Army world. This group of officers was more than just a group of co-workers. They were more than friends. You would be more correct to call them "family." Together we celebrated each other's birthdays and anniversaries. More importantly, we created a team, a community, a place to belong.

We didn't always share the same interests. One captain served as the Air Force chair on an all Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation committee. My chaplain assistant, who was an honorary "sixth" mafia member, and I joined the camp's all volunteer fire department. Some might be surprised to find that we didn't share similar political ideas or even religious beliefs. We were a diverse group, made up of Democrats and Republicans; Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant. Those categories did not keep us from forming community. They made us even stronger. We had created a culture of caring and a new way to connect with our Air Force family.

On July 1, Air Mobility Command officials released a concept called "Comprehensive Airman Fitness." The news release described it as a 'new approach' and not a new program. There are so many good points to this concept that if I were to write a complete article on that subject I could fill this column for weeks.

What I like about Comprehensive Airman Fitness is that it recognizes the need for a cultural change, a total shift in the way we think and act. We need to connect with each other and build a more resilient Air Force community that can stand up to the challenges we're facing. Those stressors are real. High operations tempo, continued downsizing, deployments and the economy can take a toll on us. The good news is we are stronger than all of those challenges put together.

Since I can't write about all of the points in this comprehensive approach, I wanted to focus on connecting. As a chaplain, I visit with Airmen who are dealing with real stress but don't always have the resources to lean upon. They are hungry for connection. They want to be closer to their friends and family and are missing out on the greatest support system that's available. They want deeper relationships.

I admire the commanders and first sergeants who take risk and discover new ways to increase the bonds within their organization. They often try new things: adding a spin to their commander's calls; working with booster clubs to increase community; and celebrating their unit's heritage and their accomplishments. You are doing it right! Keep it up.

For the other Airmen who are reading this, I want to encourage you to reach out and find ways to get involved. Join a private organization like the Air Force Association, Company Grade Officer's Council, Air Force Sergeant's Association or First Six. I am grateful for the friendship of five CGO's who became my adopted family. Make those connections that will last for a lifetime, beyond your Air Force career. You will be stronger for it, more resilient. And you know what? The Air Force will be stronger for it, too.