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Commentary: Reflecting on 2020, looking toward 2021

  • Published
  • By Col. Joe Janik
  • 910th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

10, 9, 8...ignition, liftoff. Do you know the name of the space shuttle launched on Nov. 15, 2020? The crew dutifully named it The Resilience, a fitting name as we close out 2020. We discuss extensively about resiliency in the Air Force, but never in our lifetimes has there been a year where our personal resiliency has been put to the test over and over as it has in 2020. All of you are too familiar with the multiple life-altering events this year has brought us. From the COVID-19 pandemic to racial unrest, a contentious election season, and the passing of several 910th teammates; this year has made us aware of what is truly important in our lives and what we truly cherish. With the aforementioned items aside, this year has been one where I have been witness to multiple acts of kindness and love. These actions displayed our devotion and dedication that we have for each other in the 910th family.

With the increased level of stress 2020 has brought us, we all need an outlet to ensure we are well-balanced. I equate this to a 3-legged stool. The legs stand for your family time, your Air Force time, and your civilian employment/school time, each one vying for your attention. Now throw a fourth leg into the picture: you. If you are not ready to perform, the other three legs will suffer. We all need an outlet, a way to decompress. For me, I work out, run, read, and watch an occasional ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ What is your outlet? The 910th is fortunate to have multiple helping hands agencies to facilitate decompressing. They include our: Chaplains, Director of Psychological Health, Violence Prevention Integrator, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Yellow Ribbon, Airmen and Family Readiness, Equal Opportunity, Inspector General, Judge Advocate General, First Sergeants, Key Spouses, and our Exercise Physiologist. These great individuals have one mission; that is to be there for you. Please reach out and utilize their expertise.

Everyone has a story. Through this year of telework, virtual meetings, and physical distancing, we may not have had as many opportunities to be together with all of our 910th members. We are social creatures, needing interaction and storytelling. Remember Tom Hanks’ “friend” from the movie, Cast Away. Stranded on a desert island, he was craving conversation and interaction, so he created “Wilson.” Perhaps some of us may think we are on a desert island by ourselves. Trust me when I say, “You. Are. Not. Alone.” I ask for all, please engage with your Airmen and each other, not just through these difficult times, but all times. Be there to assist your fellow Airmen in achieving their goals. Know their story. 

The one constant throughout the year has been our combat readiness. Even though the world has struggled with the pandemic, our requirement to be combat-ready has not faltered. Yes, some organizations throughout the Air Force received waivers for certain requirements at the beginning of the pandemic, but they have since expired. For us, it has been business as usual. We have been expected to maintain our level of readiness and have deployed several 910th members and we have received our members from deployments.

Through our adjustment to the pandemic, you learned how to operate in and through these difficult times. We initiated an increase in telework, we developed the first telework Unit Training Assembly, and we created the first virtual physical health assessment that AFRC acknowledged as a benchmark program. In August, the 910th participated in a 22nd Air Force exercise named Rally in the Valley. The exercise demonstrated our ability to operate in a contested environment and from several different airfields. In October, we performed flawlessly as the wing executed two operations simultaneously. The first operation involved our readiness assessment named Steel Dragon at Alpena, Michigan (that state up north for the Buckeye fans). We “deployed” 225 Airmen to evaluate our Mission Essential Tasks in a contested environment. For our second operation, our unique mass aerial spray capability was activated to assist with mosquito control in Louisiana. The men and women who took part in this post-Hurricane Delta operation were very successful, spraying more than 900,000 acres in two weeks. It was an all-hands-on-deck effort by all of our 910th organizations to successfully deploy and redeploy from these missions.   

What does 2021 bring for us? Well, to start, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as our 46th president. A COVID vaccine will be available. As the dust settles from a tumultuous year, we are expected to be just as combat-ready as ever.   

While we as military members are fortunate enough to put on our uniform every day and serve our nation, we would not be able to do it without the support of our families. Although they may not put on a uniform, they no doubt are the unsung heroes of our military force. Thank you to all of the families of the 910th for your continued support of our members and the Air Force Reserve.  

We will continue to further the cause of supporting the Air Force mission to fly, fight, and win by being Combat Ready NOW…for tomorrow’s fight! Three steadfast principles that will guide us in our mission success are:

#1 – TRUST – I trust you will do your job well and take care of your Airmen. You are empowered to make decisions to get the mission done, and where there is an opportunity for improvement, take it. Do not wait for me.

#2 – DISCIPLINE – Be disciplined to your craft and be the best at what you do. Be highly proficient and take pride in your work and your unit.

#3 – CULTURE – With the first two, we improve upon a culture where we succeed and where you want to improve the unit.

Thank you to all of our Airmen for your service. Airmen with a capital “A” means our Active Guard Reserve members, Air Reserve Technicians, Traditional Reservists, our civilian workforce, and our contractors. Each individual brings value to our mission, resulting in widespread evidence of high proficiency, unit pride, and cohesion. By bringing different experiences and perspectives together, this only increases our ability to attract, recruit, develop, and retain our awesome Airmen. I am proud to serve with you. For 2021, be ready, resilient, and postured for success.