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NEWS | Oct. 30, 2009

Why are you here?

By Brig. Gen. Dana Simmons Air Force Office of Special Investigations commander

Well it's that time of year again. The leaves are changing color, the weather is becoming cooler and change is in the air. President John F. Kennedy once said, "The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable." This statement is most certainly true for our military. Over the past year, we have seen many changes...

As I look to the future, I see large changes on the horizon as well. However, we must view change as a natural part of life. We must anticipate when things will take a different course, and then prepare ourselves for the actions to be taken.

During my years of service I have experienced many changes, and thus I have witnessed multiple reactions to change. Some take change head on and ask, "How can we make it happen?" Others wonder, "What will happen if ...?" Both are normal responses to change.

Over the upcoming year, we will experience changes in leadership, changes in budgets and changes in accommodations, and I ask each of you to look for solutions and to do the best you can to make the Air Force the best ever. It's often been said that it's not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.

Now that we have discussed the importance of your response to change, I would like to ask each of you a question: "Why are you here?" It's a simple question, and I feel the answer is the same no matter if you are civilian, enlisted or officer.

However, before I share with you my answer to this question, there are a few lessons I have learned in my 33 years of service to our Nation that I would like to pass along to you:

My first suggestion is to read. You must always be reading something, preferably a biography, leadership primer or military history. If you are not reading, you are denying yourself an opportunity for growth through the experiences of others.

Secondly, and equally importantly, get enough sleep. In our business, you need to be at your absolute best day in and day out. Lack of sleep can have serious medical effects over a period of time. We need to realize that there are consequences of lack of sleep, not just physically, but mentally as well. Lack of concentration and slowed reaction time are just two common side effects for lack of sleep.

Flexibility is my third suggestion. You need to be willing to address issues as they arise and to prepare solutions for possible problem sets. The number one item on your agenda may not always be number one. You need to be prepared for number 15 to become number one. The catch phrase is "Flexibility is the Key to Air Power." That statement couldn't be truer for all military personnel.

This brings me to my next piece of advice: follow rules and regulations. As members of the military, we must be above reproach. We represent something greater than ourselves. I understand that sometimes we may be tempted to take a short-cut and that the right thing isn't always easy; however, we must strictly adhere to regulations and guidelines that govern our service.

Next, I would like to suggest that you write down your goals, both professional and personal. During difficult times, this will help remind you why you are here and provide guidance during decision points in your life. As members of the U.S. military, our number one goal is to serve our country. It really is that simple. Every one of us took an oath. It does not matter if you are a civilian, enlisted or officer, that oath has a very common theme - service.

This leads me to my last point: grow where you are planted. The military goes to great lengths to place you in a position that will help you meet your needs and serve the military's requirements. You may not always agree with your assignment, but you must strive to do the best you can wherever you are assigned.

"I am a simple Soldier. I go where I am told, and I win where I go," General George S. Patton once said. We must always remember that any place we go in the service. These lessons have served me well during my Air Force career.

Originally, I asked every one of you the question, "Why are you here?" I hope, as you read through the lessons I've learned and shared with you, that you've thought of an answer.

In closing, I would like to share my answer with you: We are all here to serve. We serve in our faith, family and profession. Most important of all, we serve each other.