Why it matters how much you CARE!

  • Published
  • By Lt.Col. Matthew Mulbarger
  • 75th Air Base Wing Staff Judge Advocate
How many times have you heard the following phrases? "Take care of your boss," "Take care of your people," "Take care of the mission," or "Take care of your Wingman?" We hear these phrases and we generally know the intent of the speaker but have you actually ever stopped and asked yourself, "What does it mean to really care about something or someone?"

We all have a general sense of what we care about, but do we actually know how to do it? How, as Airmen, do we learn to care about flying, fighting and winning our nation's wars? As with any Air Force challenge, you start with an acronym. With our challenge, we will start with C.A.R.E.

Now before we jump into our C.A.R.E. model, I know what you are thinking, "How is a lawyer going to give advice on how to care?" Legal advice? Sure, but advice on caring? Really? Yes and here's why. As a military lawyer for the past 15 years, I have witnessed firsthand what happens when Airmen fail to care for their fellow Airmen or their mission. The results are heartbreaking and tragic at times. What I offer you with the C.A.R.E. model is a plan of action. A way for you to internalize how to care for those things you hold dear.

Courage -- Webster's dictionary defines courage as "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty." Think for a moment of a time in your career where you had an opportunity to do the right thing and you didn't out of fear or difficulty. Caring means having the courage to stand up. To challenge the status-quo when it does not meet the standard. To remind a noncommissioned officer she missed a salute or to inform an officer his uniform is out of regulation. To take the car keys away from a drunk Airmen. All these situations take courage. Courage is about strength. If you really care, have the strength to do something about it.

Attitude -- Winston Churchill said that, "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." A positive attitude is an immediate sign you care about what you are doing. Your attitude tells your teammates and your leadership the mission matters to you. We all know the people in our organizations with can-do attitudes. We know they care by the positive attitude they exude.

Respect -- Too much respect is never a bad thing. Customs and courtesies are a 360-degree effort involving not just superiors, but peers and subordinates as well. Saluting and respecting the flag is always appropriate. Ending an e-mail with "Very respectfully" is always proper etiquette. Using the term "Sir" or "Ma'am" is never offensive or politically incorrect. To be an effective fighting force, we have to respect each other and what each of us brings to the fight.

Empathy -- The great thing about military rank is chiefs start as airman basics and general officers start as second lieutenants. Empathy is about remembering where we started and our common shared experiences. These experiences help us care for each other. Remembering how you struggled as a young Airman will help you care for the next generation of Airmen. Recalling what it was like to give your child a "Skype hug" from the Area of Responsibility makes cutting the grass for your deployed co-worker easier. Visiting a sick Wingman in the hospital, sending over a meal to new first-time parents or simply extending a helping hand to an Airmen in need are all examples of ways to show you care.

Courage, Attitude, Respect and Empathy are all things you control and can focus on today. Caring for our mission and our Airmen is both a honor and a privilege. Remember, the C.A.R.E model starts with you.