A view of the world

CMSgt Victoria Gamble, Air Mobility Command command chief

CMSgt Victoria Gamble, Air Mobility Command command chief

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- Prior to entering U.S. Air Force basic training in July 1985, my view of the world consisted of my hometown family, friends and the local environment.  Since I came from a rural community, my view of the world was very small.  This is understandable since I was surrounded by people who had the same beliefs and were brought up in a similar fashion.

All this changed in basic training.  Since I was raised in the South, I was perplexed that other people did things like "bake" chicken when we all knew chicken tasted the absolute best when it was "fried."  For the first time ever, I was surrounded by other people with different backgrounds and beliefs.  Spending quality time with these people began to slowly change my view of the world.

I can remember being in Germany in the late 1980's and being quite shocked that the world map did not have the United States of America right smack in the middle of it. 

The map I saw had Germany in the middle of it.  I thought to myself, surely the folks at Rand McNally needed a good talking to.  I would later discover that each subsequent country I visited would have their country in the middle of the map.

As I continued my service I would travel more broadly, meet many more people and be exposed to different cultures than I ever thought imaginable.  These people were kind, intelligent, had families, hopes and dreams just like I did. 

In a 2014 Pew Research study on Social Media and the 'Spiral of Silence', "research has shown that when people decide whether to speak out about an issue, they rely on reference groups, friendships and community ties--to weigh their opinion relative to their peers."  When we spend time with people that think and do things differently, we expand our critical thinking skills, increase our acceptance of others and make far better decisions.

As I've gotten closer to retirement, people have asked, "How can I honor your service, Chief?"  The answer to this is easy and best of all, free.  You can honor my service by surrounding yourself with people that think differently than you do.  Seek out other Airmen with dissimilar thoughts, and you may surprise yourself with great ideas you never knew you had. 

Over the years, the Air Force has provided me with many opportunities; from higher-level education and leadership opportunities to world travel.  However, the best one afforded to me was the chance to meet people from all walks of life and learn from them.  Jim Rohn once said, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with."

After spending 30 years with Airmen, my average just got higher! I have much gratitude and respect for you all.