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Overcoming Your Biggest Obstacle: Yourself

Graphic displaying Impavide and Lessons in leadership

Graphic produced for slideshow on F. E. Warren AFB web page. (U. S. Air Force Graphic by Glenn S. Robertson)

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --

I didn’t want to be here.  By here, I mean a Contracting Officer in the United States Air Force.  From the time I was very young, my heart was dead set on being a pilot.  Not just any pilot, but a fighter pilot with all the intrigue, danger, romance, and respect demanded of heroic job through the eyes of a younger me.  If you had told five-year-old me that I’d be sitting behind a desk instead of cutting through the clouds with afterburners, I’m sure my story would have been very different.  As it stands, I couldn’t be happier or more fortunate to be sitting where I am today.

 

Several years ago after commissioning, I reported to pilot training where I sailed through the ground portion of training and had goosebumps the entire day before my first flight in the T-6.  As we took off I was thrilled . . .  for about 30 seconds before I began getting actively airsick (nice way of saying I puked my guts out).  What followed next was about six weeks of torture getting sick both on the ground in a swivel “training” chair as well as multiple times on every flight.  It turned out that my dreams of being a fighter pilot did not coincide with my weak stomach and violent motion sickness.  I had failed and I was broken!

 

When the Air Force told me I was going into Contracting, I didn’t have a clue what that meant nor did I care.  I went to training and even arrived at my next duty station with a bad work ethic and worse attitude.  If I could no longer achieve my dream, I didn’t really care about much else.  I was depressed, felt like a letdown, and in a very dark spot personally and professionally. 

 

Thankfully, my spouse as well as my new commander saw possibilities of success where I only saw failure.  They prodded and encouraged me daily to get over it and start over.  It wasn’t an immediate switch where suddenly I overcame all obstacles, but a gradual climb out of a low place.  The problem wasn’t a new career or loss of the old one, but myself.  I had let self-pity and unhappiness take over when things didn’t go the way I had planned.  Some days were hard, other days were harder, but I continued my growth and change over the next several months until the best part of the story was that my biggest challenge was past tense. 

 

Since I was finally able to overcome myself several years ago, I have been blessed beyond imagination.  I’ve been fortunate enough to get additional education, win a variety of awards, and even be selected for command.  I’ve supported over $10 billion (yes, billions with a “b”) in acquisitions both domestically and abroad.  Most importantly, I get to support decisions which impact thousands of Airmen on a daily basis as we acquire and sustain our fighting capabilities. 

 

I’m quite certain that not everyone here at F.E. Warren AFB is doing exactly what they imagined a few years before.  Most of us didn’t envision our current position even a few months ago prior to COVID.  Some of us don’t have the job we wanted, we all have struggles in our personal lives, and some of us dislike the region.  Regardless of our challenges, nothing is so big that it cannot be defeated by overcoming ourselves.  Our peers, supervisors, and even commanders have all struggled, fallen, and failed in our lives.  Getting back up and overcoming these fights requires resilience, good attitude and hard-work.  Nelson Mandela said it best when he noted, “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”