KABUL, Afghanistan --
(These words are my own thoughts and they are from the heart.)
Hello Everyone! It's #talkaboutittuesday, but it's actually early Wednesday morning. I apologize for being a little late. I just returned from an awesome night training sortie with two Afghan Air Force air crews in night vision goggle (NVG) upgrade. I had a different #dailylifeinafghanistan planned, but...
sometimes it's about more than you.
I have officially passed the halfway point. I have no idea where the days went. It has been an experience. When questioned, my standard description has become, "This is the hardest and best job I've ever had."
I don't know that I was being honest. This is definitely the hardest job that I've ever had...I know that I wanted this to be the best job. I was ecstatic to find out that I "got" this deployment. I had volunteered multiple times, begged my supervisor for support, and sought recommendation from my wing commander. This was going to be a once in a lifetime/make or break/add this one to the list of awesomeness type experience. I was ready.
I was NOT ready. I don't know if I'll retire as an Air Force officer or a public affairs officer. I do know that I want to be dang good at whatever job I happen to hold. It has been a rough six months in that department. Without going into detail, this has been the hardest time in my professional life. I have felt stretched thin. I get discouraged when I make silly mistakes. I can't believe I drop proverbial balls on the reg. I have had personality clashes with leadership. I have questioned whether I still had "it" or if I've overstepped my abilities. I felt I couldn't be myself because whatever, and sometimes everything, I was doing was not working.
Happen to take note of how many times "I" popped up in those thoughts?
Amazing people, both here in Kabul and back home, have kept me pushing and continue to reignite my motivation. Fast forward to this week. While catching up with an old friend, he said, "When you're at that point, you have to realize that sometimes it's about more than you."
"At that point" was in reference to holding a high rank or senior position. The context was doing something, even if you don't want to, because it sets an example. I'm far from high ranking, in fact I'm probably the second most junior officer in our entire wing. However, the sentence hit me deep in the pit of my stomach. I couldn't quite connect the dots at that moment, but his sentence weighed on my mind.
Today, an email arrived from an enlisted member that I've met on this assignment. To paraphrase, he had been making tiny mistakes throughout his deployment, but had continued to march along. He was doing his best, until his best was an utter failure. A complete stoppage of work. He failed a mission. Nobody was hurt, no property was lost, and no extra dollars or minutes were spent. However, he could not do what was asked of him and he had no excuse. The Airman took a knee and privately broke down.
I don't know why he chose to share this private reflection with me, but I'm deeply grateful. I started to type a heartfelt response that detailed, "It happens. Sometimes you just need that second where you cannot do...you must pause and reflect because you have no other option."
Something came up and I rushed off leaving the email in the draft folder. Over the next few hours, my mind drifted to that draft and my regret for not quickly responding to an emotional email from one of my Airmen. Another proverbial ball dropped.
Fast forward with me once more, to the open ramp of an Mi-17 in the moon-illuminated sky of Afghanistan as the nauseatingly hot rotor wash smacks off my face. The communication jack, that I was to use, was needed by an Afghan instructor gunner. The radio that carries the frequency of my fellow Guardian Angel (security for air advisors while advising) failed. The NVGs had been handed to an Airman that had never flown under the device. It was just me, standing on that ramp with the stars and moon surrounding me over Afghanistan. I had no comms buzzing in my ear and no neon green filter distorting the stunning mountain ranges and lakes below.
I had that second where I could not do....I had to pause and reflect because I had no other option. The weight on my mind began to lift. I realized that at this point, it's about more than me. I've let all of those hardships and hurdles that I've felt over the past six months blind me. The pieces started to meld and form the big picture--which it turns out has little to do with me.
The big picture is everyone around us; it was just buried in the "I" thoughts. It is the people that reignite our motivation. It is the Afghan man that cleans our dorms and has become family to hallway residents. It is the senior leader that takes a minute to explain how you could have approached a topic differently. It is the person at home who sends a care package to a service member that they've never met. It is the friend who spouts wisdom that digs into your soul. It is the Airman that shares his lowest moment with you. The big picture isn't about me, my perceived hardship or my difficult tasks that are undesirable--sometimes it's about more than you.
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