We can't afford to lose you

  • Published
  • By Col. Gary Goldstone
  • 375th Airlift Wing commander
If you have ever suddenly lost someone close to you, then you know full well the feelings that accompany such a devastating event. First there is shock and numbness, followed by a wave of questions. What happened? How did this happen? How can we go on without them?

By the very nature of our work, we expect to be placed in harm's way. We are brothers and sisters in arms who drive convoys in Iraq, who call in targets to A-10s, who monitor intelligence feeds, who patrol violent cities, who fly over insurgents, who detonate explosive ordnances, who rescue those who are stranded and treat those who get injured. We Enable Combat Power!

We take precautions. We train. We assess the risks of our operations. And, sometimes, despite our best efforts, we suffer the loss of a brother or sister in arms. To these men and women who die in service to their country, we reverently honor. We miss them terribly, but we must fill in the void and move out on our next mission.

This doesn't mean the mission is accomplished in the same way or as well as before if we had not lost our friend.

We can have the best plan. The best processes. The best tactics, techniques and procedures. But each person brings something special to the mission. Each person brings a special skill, a personality ... something that only that person can bring to the team, and that's why sudden loss is so tragic.

On the battlefront, our warriors deal with loss that can be of a violent nature, and many surviving members experience feelings of guilt or they question themselves to analyze if there was something they could have done to prevent the death.

War exacts this toll from us.

Yet, accidents or sudden health failures can also exact this toll from those of us who are serving on the homefront. We are providing communications support, airlift tasking orders, organizing the supply lines and readying the next wave of troops. We are all working together to ensure we're ready and that those on the frontlines have what they need to fight and win.

That is why the loss of a fellow Airman, Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Coast Guardsman due to something that is completely preventable is of utmost concern to me. Our installation has experienced too many DUIs and other alcohol related incidents during the past few months and that alarms me. I wish to urge every Airman, every wingman, every supervisor, along with our proud sister services, and every commander to double your efforts in educating and working to prevent any further alcohol related incidents.
I wish to urge you to double your efforts to train. To educate. To take precautions ... and to motivate our our team to not drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Not only is their life at risk, but this puts others at risk too. The 375th Airlift Wing recently conducted a mock funeral to get one simple message across: We can't afford to lose you!

Being a member of the United States Armed Services requires a certain level of behavior and while it's understandable that people make mistakes, there really can be no excuse for DUIs because there are many options for our collective team: call a cab, call a supervisor, call a wingman, call someone from Armed Forces Against Drunk Driving or stay where you're at ... anything but get behind a wheel and take an unnecessary risk. And don't fall into the trap of thinking that because a DUI didn't end in a loss of life that it hasn't affected us as well. Most times offenders are removed from their primary duties, or they are tied up in legal matters, or they may not even be able to get around to function in their jobs. That affects the entire team.

You are not just a number on a Unit Manning Document or a line item in a deployment cycle. Each person matters and each person is needed. It's not just because we have fewer people to do the tasks. It's not because we are asked to do more with those fewer numbers. You matter because of what you do and who you are. You save lives. You protect us. You feed us and keep us healthy. You enable combatant commanders with freedom of action and the tools they need. You bring smiles to little children who have nothing in many parts of the world. You provide comfort to those in crisis. You do many things that are above and beyond your specifically assigned duties.

It's for those reasons that we can't afford to lose you. So please, make the right choice, stay vigilant, and keep bringing that special skill, insight and talent to our team.