Stories from the road

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James D. Reaves
  • 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
As another year approaches its end, it's time to reflect on the accomplishments and opportunities we have had  this past year.

I couldn't help but reflect upon all the amazing "stories from the road" that have been shared with me over these past few months.  When I took command of the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in June, I was excited about the challenges of command, yet unaware of the true scope of our squadron's mission.  In these past few months, my appreciation for this unit quickly grew into real admiration.

After a brief whirlwind of introductions and tour of the squadron, I got out and about to ask our Airmen to tell me their best story since coming to the unit.  When the first story relayed to me began with the statement "so there I was...," I was a bit hesitant about what was coming next. 

What followed, however, was a story about the Airman overcoming challenges that not only required his technical expertise but also coordination with the Polish air force to utilize equipment for repairs.  Needless to say I was impressed with this Airman's story, which made me curious about what other amazing stories there were to be shared as well.

It did not take me long to find out, but I was humbled by the number of similar stories shared by our Airmen, and also a bit overwhelmed by all the places they had been enhancing our joint partnership capacity.  Stories were shared about air frames as different as the C-130J Super Hercules and C-40C and about locations spanning all across Europe. 

I was shocked that the stories shared with me were equally expansive and included stops in places such as Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Uganda, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Algeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Kenya and more.    

In hearing these stories, I noticed a common theme in the amount of pride that each Airmen had in the work they had done to keep our aircraft, and our mission, in the air. 
Some reminisced about having to land in austere runways with limited lighting and facilities, their interactions with senior leaders and foreign dignitaries and about the times they trained members of an allied military service on aircraft maintenance.

After hearing these stories, it would be impossible not to come away with a real admiration (and yes even a little bit of envy) for what these Airmen had experienced and what they had accomplished in order to keep our aircraft flying.

Reflecting upon these stories is even more important now than it has ever been before.  These stories represent our Air Force's effort to build a shared community and purpose in Europe, Africa and further abroad through shared experiences and a common understanding. 

In the process of building these stories, we also build relationships that strengthen not only a common purpose but more importantly friendships.  Our mission may be to "Fly, Fight and Win," but nothing says we have to do it alone.

The similar goals of these allies will be much easier to accomplish with partners who are both willing and able to take on that mission by our side.  So as we reflect on the stories we've built this year, let's also start thinking about our resolutions for next year and the new stories we will build in the future.