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NEWS | June 11, 2010

What does it matter?

By Col. Jacqueline D Van Ovost 89th Airlift Wing commander

I don't know about you, but I get tired of the day in, day out grind. It is hard to see things with a new perspective when you can almost predetermine the outcome of your interactions. Each day seems like the last: when you are done processing one aircraft arrival, another comes in; shifts at the gate and lines at the MPF never end; each day brings in new patients to diagnose and treat. So how does one person really make a difference?

Well, what you see is what you look for. Consider this story. A man came upon a construction site where three people were working. He asked the first, "What are you doing?" and the man answered, "I am laying bricks." He asked the second, "What are you doing?" and the man answered, "I am building a wall." He walked up to the third man, who was humming a tune as he worked and asked, "What are you doing?" The man stood up, smiled and said, "I am building a cathedral." Same project, three different sight pictures...interesting.

I have to admit, I was a "brick layer" in our Air Force for far too long. I didn't understand that my personal efforts, representing such a tiny piece of the mission, mattered to my unit and to the joint fight. Sure, I joined the Air Force to "contribute to something greater than myself," but it is hard to measure personal contribution on this scale.

My flight commander explained how the specific cargo we carried was critical to combat mission success, how a secure base ensures we can continue the mission, how a personnelist ensures I get the right training to do my mission, and how the flight surgeon ensures I am fit-to-fly. I could now visualize the importance of all elements of support and operations to our Air Force mission of Fly, Fight, and Win. Our Chief of Staff often uses a quote that really hits home: "you should never measure your value by your proximity to the target."

This principal applies to all you do - professionally and personally. Understanding how you relate to the overall mission and cause is the single-most important factor in determining job and personal satisfaction. It is not how much you get paid, what uniform you are wearing, or the shift you are on; it is about your perception of value to the unit, our Air Force, our community and to your family.

When you value what you do, you demonstrate respect for yourself and others. You take pride in your contributions and fuel the engine that drives success.

So, what does it matter? Let me be clear: everything you do matters to someone. We all need to step away from the bricks once in a while, visualize the cathedral, and help others do the same. That is how each of us makes a difference.