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Responsibility versus opportunity

  • Published
  • By Col. Rob Vercher
  • 90th Operations Group commander
Early in his first term, our 26th president, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, became aware of the difference between the formal "responsibilities" that surrounded his office and the "opportunities" that the office afforded him. Serving as the Commander in Chief, appointing federal judges, as well as being the chief diplomat of the United States, were examples of the immense responsibility that required daily excellence of a president.

Convincing Congress to pass new anti-trust laws that protected workers but angered powerful businessmen such as J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, negotiating peace between a Russian czar and Japanese emperor, and securing a deal with Columbia to build the Panama Canal, were examples of opportunities that required character and courage to imagine and implement.

The men and women of Air Force Global Strike Command share in this same heritage by having strenuous responsibilities that goes along with providing nuclear deterrence capabilities for our president and nation, and the many individual opportunities that come with serving in the armed forces.

Here at the Mighty Ninety, daily excellence is evident everywhere you look as we execute our responsibilities: maintenance technicians carefully following complex technical orders to keep missiles on alert, helicopter crews and tactical response forces vigilantly providing a security presence across a 9,600 square-mile ICBM field, defenders convincing potential adversaries to stay away from our gates, and operations crews standing ready to defend America at a moment's notice.

We diligently uphold our responsibilities, but at times, the tremendous opportunities we have at our fingertips can go unnoticed.

Opportunities differ from responsibilities as they require individuals to actively recognize and exploit them. When a deployed Airman in the missile field decides to work on his or her career development courses, associate's degree through the Community College of the Air Force or bachelor's degree during off-duty hours, they are exploiting an opportunity for advancement.

When a supervisor ensures a new arrival to their unit has a place to live and knows when and where to show for work, they are exploiting an opportunity to lead.

When a co-worker takes the keys away from a peer because they have had too much to drink, they are exploiting an opportunity to be a good wingman.

Within our great wing, many amongst us take advantage of these opportunities every day. No doubt each of our daily lives is filled with significant responsibilities that can block our perspective on what's possible.

But, imagine how much better off we are as a wing when more people become active in pursuing individual opportunities such as these.

If Teddy Roosevelt had merely fulfilled his presidential responsibilities, then robber barons may have never been regulated into corporations, Japan may have beaten Russia and taken over Siberia, and shipping containers might still sail around the world instead of cutting through Central America.

So, what's holding you back from your opportunities?