Lessons through mistakes

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kirby Turbak
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

I have a couple scars across my body.


The one on my knee is from going down a gravel road in shorts, on a brake-less bike. The scar across my chin was from when I had the idea to try a ‘behind-the-back-push-up.’ I wasn’t successful.


When I see these scars, I don’t beat myself up for the mistakes I made when I was younger, I think of the lessons I learned from them, no matter how difficult of a situation it was.


Of all the scars, I think of the faded, jagged line on the side of my hand from needing surgery after I broke my hand in a fight.


I was an airman first class and had only been 21 for a few months at the time. I and a few friends decided to go to Oklahoma City to go bar hopping. We had a plan. We didn’t need a designated driver to get around, and we had a hotel. We thought everything would be fine. Everything wasn’t fine.


Fast forward several hours, my face is red, my pride is in shambles, my hand is swollen and my three friends and I are being kicked out of our damaged hotel room.

Even though the fight was over, I knew worse was to come. I’d have to go through ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment) as well as anger management courses.


I also knew the two of us who started the fight would have to pay for the damages to the hotel, approximately $5,800 total.


During the next three weeks, I was a wreck. I slept very little, ate less, and my body shook anytime I had to talk to leadership. Thankfully my leadership thought the consequences I already faced were punishment enough and I only received a letter of reprimand.


Even though this was probably one of the most stressful times of my life, I wouldn’t change a thing.

It developed me into a better Airman learning how to take responsibility for my action, the importance of communication and even the importance of financial responsibility.


Could there have been a less painful way of figuring these things out? Of course! Now being a noncommissioned officer, I’m able to teach my Airmen these lessons without them raging in a hotel room.


I try to keep that mindset every day and in every situation. What could be learned from all this?

As Airmen, we must constantly be ready to observe failures, create corrective measures and then implement them.


Not only does this correct issues, but builds confidence within ourselves.


We have to know we’re not perfect. When we’re down on our luck, we need to take advantage of our situations and understand there is a lesson in all of it. By doing all that, we can become greater wingmen, leaders, and warriors.