Dedication … a component of our core values

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jefferey Johnson
  • 509th Medical Support Squadron
"Dedication is not what others expect of you, it is what you can give to others."
-Author Unknown

Congratulations, Team Whiteman! Thanks to each of you for your dedicated and focused support of a successful generation exercise this past week. Well done! Yes, there were problems and discrepancy items opened that need us, as a team, to address and improve. But, after all, that is why we exercise these types of events. So when we do have to do this, real-world, we'll have the kinks worked out.

This weekend, as I supported the Battle Staff operations, I saw countless examples of Airmen demonstrating our Air Force core values time and again. Everywhere one turned, you saw integrity, excellence and service before self, over and over. It literally was awe-inspiring to witness the Air Force core values in action.

Your dedication to the mission and to each other stopped me to pause and ponder. Watching Team Whiteman work through the intensity of purpose necessary to complete the array of complex requirements to assure generation, has compelled me to consider on that self-same dedication. So join me, if you will, as I ponder.

In January 1997, almost 10 years ago, our Air Force launched "the Little Blue Book," publishing our Air Force Core Values for the first time.

This triad of values has become well integrated into our Air Force culture. In just those 10 short years, the core values have galvanized our Air Force to learn from our past, apply those lessons learned to our present and propelled us to be well poised for the future.

As I continued to contemplate this, thoughts of my dad, the late John A. "Pops" Johnson, crept into my reverie. You see, unbeknownst to me, Pops had taught me a lesson with regards to a base component of our core values several years before. The component that Dad J. highlighted happened to be, you guessed it, dedication. Let me explain: As I've shared in past writings, my dad, was a Pearl Harbor survivor and WWII veteran. About this time of year, Pops and I would be spending significant quality time out in the fields of southern Indiana, hunting. Rabbit, squirrel, pheasant and quail were our normal game.

As I look back on it, we never did come back with much in the order of kills. But, you know, it's interesting, at the time dad was teaching me what I thought dealt with hunting, I failed to recognize, until recently, the many life lessons Pops really was sharing. In this particular case, Dad J. was focusing our attention on the importance of dedication to meeting a goal.
Pops and I had been out hunting rabbit for most of one weekend. We'd killed some tin-cans target practicing, but had not found any "peter cottontails" to bring home. Being a young fellow, I was pretty discouraged since this was my first weekend to use the 4-10 shotgun Pops had given me for my birthday the year before.

Well, as was Dad J's habit, he'd sense that I was getting tired of slogging across field after field. So, we pulled up under an old oak tree, Pops broke out the sandwiches and drinks Mom had made for us, he filled his pipe with his favorite tobacco, and we took a break from our expedition. As I was munching away on my peanut butter and jelly feast, Dad J. started telling me stories of hunts he'd taken with his dad long before I'd come along.

As some of you may know, I'm a bit of a history buff. I never tired of hearing Pops tell me what my ancestors were like, since most of them were gone before I was old enough to know them. Though I know it's hard to believe, military history, in particular, is indeed a passion for me. Whenever Dad J. would share one of his personal "war stories," I would really be intrigued. This day, he'd decided to share one of those types of stories.

Pops Johnson, was also a student of history. "Son," he'd say. "If you'll dedicate yourself to understanding the past, that's gonna' help you today. The past also prepares you to plan for the future, so you don't make the same mistakes you made yesterday." Dad J. was a very soft-spoken man. He wouldn't talk much about his WWII experiences. But when he did, especially with a lead in-like that, I knew it was a smart thing to listen up.

So, this time he told me about one of the things he and his buddies use to do to pass their off-time. Since they were all stationed in the South Pacific, they would check on what was happening in the European Area of Responsibility, since they had mutual friends that had gone to that area of conflict.

"Well," Dad said, as the smoke from his pipe shrouded our rest site like a fog. "One battle, had really caught my fancy. That was the one they called, 'the Battle of the Bulge.'"
If you're not aware of the "Bulge," let me give you some quick details: Dec. 16, 1944, three powerful German armies swept out of the snow and fog to attack the thinly dispersed American lines through the Ardennes Forest. Pops said the German-surge created a "bulge" in the American-British lines, hence the nickname for the battle. The apparent goal of the German attack was to separate and disrupt the Allied forces, as well as capture much needed supplies for the hampered German war machine.

How did this happen? Well, Dad said the Allied commanders had theorized, first, that the Wermacht was on the defensive due to the pounding the German Forces had taken since D-Day. Second, they thought the heavily wooded terrain would deter the German propensity to use combined arms (tanks-armored vehicles/air/artillery/infantry) from planning any major offensive in that locale. Third, Allied generals simply did not think Hitler would gamble his dwindling forces in such a high risk gambit. They were wrong.

The German onslaught seemed unstoppable. In the middle of the "bulge" sat Bastogne, Belgium. Bastogne was a crossroads town. The Germans viewed Bastogne as a key, strategic piece of real estate for their overall offensive. The Allies saw it as a main thoroughfare for Allied logistics and communications. The race was on. As the German salient pushed out and around the town, the 101st Airborne was flowing into Bastogne. From Dec. 17 - Dec. 24, three German Infantry and one Panzer Division encircled the beleaguered city. The 101st units, adeptly staying a step ahead, dug-in and met the enemy.

The rest is history - the outnumbered and outgunned 101st bested and repelled every German advance on Bastogne. In fact, Dec. 22, the German Force commander, confident of his inevitable victory, sent a message to Gen. Tony McAuliffe, acting 101st commander, to surrender, since the Germans had the 101st hopelessly, so it seemed, enveloped and surrounded.

General McAuliffe did not concur with the German commander's assessment. General McAuliffe's now famous one-word reply to the German ultimatum summed it up, "Nuts!"
The 101st, inspired by McAuliffe's determination, held. Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, seeing that the 101st was holding this sizable German force in place, asked his leading generals who could take on linking up with the 101st to relieve the pressure and send the Germans packing.
Gen. George S. "Blood and Guts" Patton, Jr. said he could do just that. Patton's 3rd Army's 4th Armored Division defied the odds, did a 180 degree turn around, fought their way over 100 miles from their original positions in little over 24 hours to bust through the Germans rear on Dec. 27. This, along with the 101st's spirited defense of Bastogne, sounded the beginning of the end of the "bulge."

As Pops told the story, I was spellbound. As the last wisps of smoke from Dad J's pipe gently blew away in the gentle fall breeze, Pop closed the door on the lesson. "So, bud," he knocked out his pipe and prepared us to hike across the next field. "If you'll just dedicate yourself to the goal set before you, pay no attention to the obstacles, but focus on the objective, no matter what they throw at you, you'll be able to pull through."

Henry Miller once said, "True strength lies in submission, which permits one to dedicate his life, through devotion, to something beyond himself." This encapsulates what the 101st carried out in their defense of Bastogne. Focused dedication also speaks in regards to General Patton and his assistance of the 101st in their defense.

My dad and Uncle Bob, a member of the 101st ABN that fought at Bastogne, likewise demonstrated this characteristic in their total dedication to their professions, to their families, and as I now know, our nation's defense. The dedication demonstrated in each of these examples relates to our own understanding of how our dedication to our core values helps us succeed as well.

The 101st, General Patton, Pops Johnson and Uncle Bob all drew remarkable strength from the dedication to principles, their personal core values, that guided them to accomplish remarkable things, despite seemingly insurmountable odds. We too, by focusing our directions, with dedication to the Air Force core values, can, likewise, find a deep well of support and thus aiding us to successfully master the multiple challenges facing us at the moment, and well into the future.

It must also be noted that our dedication is not just to one of the three, but to the core value triad. This triad of dedication dovetails one into another, thus interweaving the three strands to create an unbreakable cord, empowering us to "hold the line," mount the charge and bust through the "enemy" regardless.

As I mentioned earlier, the many recent examples from our generation exercise just past. Time and again we witnessed issues and problems that could have readily turned into show-stoppers with regards to meeting the mission.

Yet, Team Whiteman, pulling on dedication, identified solutions to these problems, stepped up, took responsibility and went above and beyond to take care of our fellow Airmen during the focused preparations for a very successful generation.

And now, as we enter the home stretch prior to our NSI, it is this same dedication to our Air Force core values, and to each other, just like the team of the 101st, Patton's 3rd Army, or that of a father to his son, we will facilitate Team Whiteman's successful reception and completion of this upcoming inspection cycle.

Well, to finish the story, Pops Johnson and I finished hunting that weekend, going home with nary a rabbit in the game bag. Yet, now I know I came away with much more than that.
That day I got one of my first lessons on being dedicated to values greater than myself. That day I learned that a team, focused of purpose, can accomplish great things, even in the face of a seemingly unbeatable challenge.

We too, with our dedication to our Air Force core values, our belief in our purpose and each other, can in similar fashion, take the lessons learned from each days experience and continue to prepare, not just to best the NSI, but well beyond that. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence, give careful attention, to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall" (II Peter 1:10).