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Airmen taking care of Airmen ... what truly matters!

  • Published
  • By Col. Darren Hartford
  • 437th Airlift Wing commander
Last week, the 437th Airlift Wing experienced the sudden loss of one of our own - Maj. David Diehl passed away Wednesday, April 17. The entire 437th AW and Team Charleston family mourns the loss and shares our deepest sympathies with his wife Nicole and his children, Paige, Luke and Juliet, the rest of his surviving family, as well as the immediate members of Maj. Diehl's Air Force family ... the men and women of the 16th Airlift Squadron and the 437th Operations Group Staff, where Maj. Diehl worked.

I would like to also express my gratitude to the entire Team Charleston Air Force family for how you reached out and supported the 437th AW and the Diehl family in our time of grief. As our Air Force family shares in the pain of our loss and reaches out to find ways to support the family and the squadron who knew and loved Maj. Diehl, it demonstrates one of my favorite parts of serving in our Air Force: We are a community. We take care of our fellow Airmen.

When events, like what happened this past week at the Boston Marathon, or any personal tragedy like the loss of Maj. Diehl occurs, it makes us focus on what truly matters. Day-to-day pressures or the 'tyranny of the urgent' oftentimes make us lose that focus. By this I mean that sometimes it seems the most important thing we do in a day is finishing a project, making a take-off time, completing a repair, going to a meeting or even sending an email. When we focus on that day-to-day 'urgent' project, we tend to lose sight of the people around us. When a tragedy occurs, we quickly change our priorities and our schedules and refocus on caring for those people. This is a reminder for all of us that looking out for each other, in my words, Airmen taking care of Airmen, should always be our priority.

Any challenge, whether personal, financial or operational, is no match for our Airmen working and caring for each other. If an Airman does not feel they are part of the team or family, it weakens the entire organization and we need to work together to eliminate anything that threatens to tear us apart. Discrimination, on any basis; harassment, of any type; behavior that demeans the value of another member of our Air Force family destroys our ability to overcome challenges by breaking down those personal relationships that we need to help solve challenges. On that day when one of us faces a crisis, we need our fellow Airman to be there - because Airmen take care of Airmen.

What does Airmen taking care of Airmen look like? It is not complex, it just takes time. It is Airmen listening to each other. It is going beyond the drive by, "how ya doing today," and actually stopping to learn what is going on in their lives or being able to hear the difference between some saying "I'm fine" and meaning it versus "I'm fine" just because that is what you expect them to say. Airmen taking care of Airmen show each other respect and stand-up for their fellow Airmen when someone else does not treat them with respect. For supervisors, it's looking your Airmen in the eye and holding them to the standard while showing them that they matter to you. It's making every member of your organization know they are a vital member of the Air Force Family. I could go on with the little daily things that we need to do to let people know they are a priority ... but I think you get the picture.

Recently, my mother passed away and I returned to the small town in Maine where I grew up. My family and I were on the receiving end of a tremendous amount of love and support from people who I had not seen in almost 30 years but who just wanted to find ways to help us in our time of grief. As I expressed my appreciation for their support, someone remarked that it had probably been a long time since I had experienced that sense of community and that type of response. I had to politely disagree and let them know that I have the privilege to see it every day in our Air Force.

Thank-you for what you do for your country and for your fellow Airmen - Airmen taking care of Airmen ... it's what truly matters.