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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2010

Visit an Air Force 'memorial'

By Ch. (Capt.) Gary Davidson 316th Wing Chapel chaplain

I recently attended the "Stars and Bars" gala, where 78 lieutenants and captains gathered with generals to learn from their experiences.

The evening's main speaker, Maj. Gen. Darrell Jones, Air Force District of Washington commander, answered the often asked question, "What do I need to do to be successful?"

The general's answer was to visit an Air Force "memorial." His meaning went beyond the obvious reference to the famed D.C. military attraction by relating some personal stories.

One story involved Gen. Spence Armstrong, former commander at the Air Force Military Training Center at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. General Armstrong would regularly return to his office to find Gen. (ret.) Curtis LeMay sitting at his desk. General LeMay, an avid gun-fan, loved shooting at the Lackland firing range. After each session, General LeMay withdrew to the quiet confines of the commander's office and the two generals would shoot the breeze and talk about guns, how to improve the firing range, and most importantly, how to improve Lackland.

These invaluable get-togethers differentiated what General Jones described to us as "visibility versus exposure." While visibility can be described as just being seen, exposure involves stepping out of one's comfort zone, away from one's desk, computer or cockpit, and getting to know others on a deeper, more personal level.

General Jones stepped out of his comfort zone 30 years ago when he was a lieutenant. While attending a banquet as an escort to former ArizonaSen. Barry Goldwater, the young lieutenant noticed a short, bald man wearing an ugly tuxedo standing nearby. On that ugly tuxedo was a shiny Medal of Honor, and the wearer was none other than Gen. Jimmy Doolittle. The general and then Lieutenant Jones spent the next 30 minutes engrossed in conversation which changed the latter's life.

These were just two stories General Jones shared to encourage the audience to visit an Air Force "memorial." For you see, said the general, some of those living memorials were in the room with us.

I understand what General Jones was talking about. Being successful in the military does, in part, lie in our ability to step away from our comfort zone, our desks, computers and cockpits, and getting to know others on a deeper, more personal level.