It's all about family

  • Published
  • By Col. Jim Sturgeon
  • 8th Operations Group commander
You heard it when you arrived: "Welcome to the Wolf Pack Family." Or maybe you've heard people talk about the Air Force Family.

When I speak with the Airmen in the Operations Group, I speak about being a family. So why do Air Force leaders refer to family when we talk about our organization? I can't speak for others, but I can tell you why I metaphorically use the term "family" when talking about the Operations Group, the Wolf Pack and the Air Force.

I had the fortune (or misfortune, depending on how you look at it) of growing up with four sisters. We were as close as ever, especially when we took family trips across the country from California to visit our relatives in Indiana. We ate together, played together, made up songs together, and when it came to getting in trouble with Mom and Dad, we usually stuck up for each other.

That certainly laid a foundation for me to build upon when I thought of family. My family was a place where I was loved, cared for, respected and safe.

At the Air Force Academy, I had the pleasure of playing football for Coach Fisher Deberry. Coach Deberry always talked about the football team as a family. It certainly made sense to me because we ate two out of three meals together each day, worked hard together, played together, and our best friends usually ended up being someone on the football team. Coach always said, "By golly, brothers are hard to beat! If you whoop one, you're gonna have to whoop the others too!" The team was a place where we were cared for, respected and safe.

A family cares for each other. When I lost my sister this past summer, my family rallied together to comfort and care for one another. My Air Force family did the same thing here at Kunsan. They sent words of encouragement and even collected money for a scholarship foundation in my sister's name. They took care of me and cared for one another each and every day.

Whether it's just an encouraging word, or acts of kindness, each of us can show the kind of love and care for each other that we would for our own family especially while we're away from our own loved ones. That's what families do.

They also respect one another. While growing up, I respected the fact that my sisters were very athletic. In fact, I usually didn't mess with my older sisters, not until I was big enough to defend myself. When they went away to school and earned advanced degrees, I was extremely proud of them and respected them for their accomplishments. I also respected them for who they were as women and they taught me to respect women.
In the military, we are taught to respect authority and rank. But we need to go beyond that and respect each other as individuals. Each of us is a unique being and deserves to be treated with foundational respect and dignity afforded to every human being. It's that foundational respect given that leads to a safe environment for everyone.

No matter what was going on in the world, I always knew that I would be safe at home with my family. Now I know that not every home was like that, but hopefully, everyone has a place where they can feel safe. It's important for the Air Force to be a safe place. A safe environment allows people to be more productive in their work without the stress of feeling threatened. Recent events highlight the fact that we need to improve our Air Force environment to ensure every individual feels mutually respected.

Respecting one another directly contributes to a safe environment, which is a prerequisite to thrive and successfully complete our mission.

The family is important to me. It is a depiction of what I think our Air Force Family should be. This family dynamic has already been demonstrated to me during my time in the Wolf Pack and I believe if we treat all our fellow Airmen as our own brothers and sisters, we'll make the Air Force a place where everyone is well cared for, respected, and safe.