Make a difference and never, ever quit

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Lee Armstrong
  • AFOSI 5th Field Investigations Squadron commander
Are you a sports fan?

When you cheer for your team, do you want them to have a .500 season -- an equal number of wins and losses? Or do you want them to win the championship?

When you joined the Air Force, did you want to be a part of the world's most average Air Force, or did you want to be a part of history's most dominant Air Force?

We are in the world's best air and space force, and I ask you to keep it that way.

How can you help keep this air and space force the world's best?

By deciding to make a difference.

Brig. Gen. (retired) Robinson "Robbie" Risner, a distinguished Airman and jet ace in the Korean War, said, "give it all you've got, you'll never pass this way again."

I ask you to do your best, to lead, take ownership and never quit because you'll never get to repeat this day.

Who are the leaders in our Air Force? The answer is simple: we all are.

Some of us are in formal leadership positions, but all of us have opportunities to lead at work and while off-duty every day.

When those formal and informal leadership situations arise, take the time to serve others, to take care of people, to give feedback up and down your chain of command, and to give your friends feedback. 

You know, it's okay to love what we do.

What does it mean to take ownership? You and I don't own our dorms or government vehicles.

Ownership is when you decide to fix a problem. Attack issues -- define them, present solutions and prevent them from getting bigger or happening at all.

The other day, I was picking up some trash around the base. Unfortunately, I had both my hands full. There was a master sergeant walking ahead of me. I called out to him, and asked him for help, which he willingly did. I didn't yell at him or make him feel bad, I just asked for help. 

He got the message, we both continued picking up garbage and we fixed a problem together.

Keeping our Air Force the best also means never, ever quitting.

In 1952, General Risner flew a combat mission over North Korea with his wingman, Lt. Joe Logan.

As they climbed back across the Yalu River in North Korea, Logan's F-86 took a burst of flak.

With only five minutes of fuel left, Logan would have to bail out in enemy territory.

But Risner was not about to quit and lose his wingman. Risner decided to try something that, to his knowledge, had never been done successfully before.

He would push his wingman's damaged F-86 to Cho Do, where Logan could bail out safely.

Risner told Logan to shut down his engine. Then he gently inserted the upper lip of his air intake into the tailpipe of Logan's F-86.

Each time Risner re-established contact between the battered nose of his F-86 and Logan's aircraft was a potential disaster, made even more dangerous by the film of hydraulic fluid and jet fuel that covered his windscreen and obscured his vision.

Miraculously, Risner nudged Logan's F-86 all the way to Cho Do. Near the island, Logan bailed out, landing in the water near shore.

The measure of a heroic act lies in the doing and never quitting. Help your fellow Airmen keep our air and space force the best.

Decide to make a difference by being a leader, taking ownership and never, ever quit.