Don't let slip ups distract, focus on good

Col. Michael Eppinger, 60th Surgical Operations Squadron commander

Col. Michael Eppinger, 60th Surgical Operations Squadron commander

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- As I come to the end of my term as commander for 60th Surgical Operations Squadron and prepare for my retirement, it's a good time to reflect back on the last couple of years.

This has been my first real command position. I've served as a flight commander for several years and have served as deputy and interim squadron commander, but it's different when you are the one on commander orders and are responsible for making more of the difficult decisions.

Over my two-year command, we've dealt with sequestration, a government shutdown, cuts in positions related to wartime funding and force management in a myriad of forms. I've had to deal with fitness failures, DUIs, various sorts of inappropriate behavior, discharge boards and the assorted crises that occur in a large medical center, both patient and facility related.

It's fairly easy, with the seemingly unending string of problems and taskers that often defy logic, to get discouraged about the progress that we're making, our people and our mission. Then I realize this is a tiny portion of the bigger picture.

We are the biggest medical facility in the Air Force. In our squadron, we do more than 4,100 operations yearly. We take care of active duty, retirees, family members and Veteran Affairs beneficiaries. We do operations that no other Air Force facility is equipped to handle. We deploy members across the globe to take care of wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, as well as coalition and civilian casualties. We can load up a medical team with their equipment on a C-17 Globemaster III with only a few hours' notice and provide casualty or humanitarian assistance literally anywhere in the world. Our Critical Care Air Transport Teams can utilize an aircraft of opportunity to create a flying intensive care unit, moving patients operated on by surgeons from our squadron, cared for by nurses, techs and docs from our squadron, from theater back to the United States, in only a day or two.

Obviously, I know my squadron best, but of course none of us operate independently. The other medical squadrons, the flyers, maintainers, crew chiefs and everyone else across the wing and the rest of the Air Force all contribute to the enormous mission on which our country relies. We are all part of the most incredible Air Force the world has ever seen. The rest of the world looks to us for guidance and to support their missions as well.

So, despite the problems we all have to deal with on a daily basis, the good far outweighs the bad. We need to focus on the good, for the sake of all of the dedicated personnel with whom we work. It's important to have a positive outlook. Our members work hard every day, whether in garrison, deployed or preparing to deploy. Make sure we focus on their accomplishments, and not on the few difficult things we have to deal with.

Celebrate our collective achievements. Apply a standard rule to our failures. Learn from it, deal with it appropriately and move on. Don't let it get in the way of the fantastic mission we all are privileged to be a part of.