An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | May 8, 2009

Enjoy the journey

By Lt. Col. Leif Eckholm 457th Airlift Squadron commander

In 1983, college professor William Least Heat-Moon published his instant classic, "Blue Highways: a Journey into America," which chronicled his 13,000 mile journey along the back roads of America in a beat-up old van. Steering clear of the major cities and interstates, Mr. Moon toured 38 states along blue highways, the small state and country roads on his road map, exploring small towns, dining at local cafés, and meeting hundreds of interesting people across America's heartland; people with intriguing stories that would have otherwise gone nameless and unnoticed while living quiet lives off the beaten paths of America's mainstream.

Mr. Moon's expedition was circular. It ended in the town where it began, and the plot was never about him reaching his destination. The richness of the story instead was laid into the voyage itself, interwoven with tales told by a modern-day explorer discovering that there is more to life than plodding headlong on the most direct route toward a pre-set goal or destination.

The reader discovers that the journey itself is most important; it's the people we meet, the bridges we build, the experiences we gain along the way that paint the tapestry of our lives.

This is a powerful message, and very relevantin my opinion, to leaders that mentor young Airmen coming up through the ranks, and to those of us charting the courses for our own Air Force careers.

In a culture that is mission-focused and success-driven, where success is often defined by rank and title, and competition is intense, it is an easy message to forget.

Furthermore, in a culture where Service Before Self is more than a core value, but in actuality an essential pillar on which continued mission success and sustainability firmly rests, prioritizing job satisfaction and personal enjoyment can at times be contradictory to Air Force needs.

Nonetheless, it is imperative that leaders and listeners alike understand and promote the concept that having fun and enjoying your time in the Air Force is not only vital to the individual health and well-being of our members and our families, but also to the Air Force's ability to sustain operations in today's environment with an ever-increasingly demanding mission.

This may not be as simple as using our leave, recharging our batteries, and taking part in activities we enjoy outside the work place. I think there is more to this message. The real meaning, in my opinion, is the significance of enjoying the jobs we do, valuing the teams that we build, cherishing the relationships that we establish, and appreciating the missions that we accomplish along the way.

The Air Force experience is just that -- an experience -- one full of opportunities, friendships, training, travel, and of great significance to the country we serve and the world we live in. Taking advantage of, and taking pride and pleasure in this experience is the ultimate goal.

Success should not be defined by the destination, or in other words, by the rank or position we achieve in our careers, but rather, by the contributions that we make, by the people that we've influenced positively, by the worthwhile change we've helped create, by the strength of our families, and ultimately, by whether or not we have truly enjoyed the journey!