Thursday, October 28, 2010

Shared Moments

From Dad's pictures

Well, six weeks ago I stood up and gave one of those speeches no one wants to give - the eulogy for my dad's funeral.  After sharing thoughts about his life and his influence in mine, I ended with these words:

"September 11, 2010, the Air Force lost one of its' best retired officers.  
But my dad - he got the best promotion of his life."

In the weeks since then, it has been a slow acceptance process.  One of the therapists who worked with Dad in his final months shared with me the importance of allowing myself to go through the natural phases of grief.  Well, when you're a 22 year-old engineering student who is trying to chase down life and grab it by the tail, you aren't terribly interested in psychological mumbo-jumbo that doesn't fit into a math equation or engineering formula.  But I have found that this is no psychological nonsense.  She was exactly right.  You have to give yourself permission to deal with grief in your own way.  

I think I found part of the healing at, of all places, an air show.

My good friend Nate Cromer and I were in Georgia during fall break, and when we drove down to Atlanta, we saw a sign for an air show.  45 minutes later, we had entered Naval Air Station Atlanta and were on the perimeter road, 150 feet from the runway.  We arrived just as the Blue Angels took center stage.

This wasn't the first airshow I had been to.  But I will never forget it.

The first aircraft we saw were numbers 5 and 6 rolling down to the end of the runway, waiting for some signal before they took off.  As we were watching them run some control surface tests only 100 feet away from us, the fourship streaked by.

My dad spent his life in a mad love affair with the airplane.  He spent his entire professional career learning the engineering principles behind their design, flying them, fixing them when they broke, buying the Air Force more aircraft, and engineering completely new aircraft designs.  His passion for all things aeronautical was contagious.  I spent hundreds of hours over the 22 years I knew him discussing everything from stealth fighter aircraft, to the angle of the engine inlet on a 1960's F-104 and how it made for excellent supersonic performance, to putting an airliner engine in an attack aircraft and how bad an idea it was.

I don't know how to describe what went through my mind as I watched those blue and gold F-18s thunder down the runway in front of us and take to the sky.  Yes, I know they didn't belong to the right branch of the Department of Defense.  But hearing those eight GE engines come to life and fill the air with their thundering symphony was absolutely awe inspiring.  The combination of their raw, mind-blowing power, afterburners literally tearing the air to shreds, with the complete control of the pilot and aircraft over that power in precision flying - even though we are decades and now lifetimes apart, I knew I was sharing a moment with my dad.  He couldn't be there to watch every pound of those aluminum airframes take to the sky, so I watching and thrilling to the roar of the engines for two that day.

Regardless of how amazing those golden streets are, I know Dad was watching me that day and was probably a bit envious.  And regardless of the amazing technical specifications of angel wings, my dad would have gladly traded for a flight suit and strapped into the cockpit for one last flight.

High Flight by John Gillespie McGee, Jr. is a classic poem that we both memorized for Air Force training.  McGee was a British pilot during World War II who wrote this after a particularly incredible flight.  The last few lines are truly inspiring:

Up, up the long delirious burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark or even eagle flew,
And while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Reached out my hand and touched the face of God.

That burning blue is missing one Air Force colonel.  Maybe some day I can strap into a cockpit and take his place.  But regardless of my future, it's comforting to know that my dad's flight through life took him past those windswept heights, through the untrespassed sanctity of space, beyond the confines of our math equations, space, and time, to a place where he can see God's face forever.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Col. Phil Bruce's Final Promotion

From Dad's pictures
The words of a Sheryl Crow song caught my ear today.  Even though it was unrelated to death, it has an uncanny correlation:

But is there someplace far away, someplace where all is clear
Easy to start over with the ones you hold so dear
Or are we left to wonder, all alone, eternally
But is this how it's really meant to be?

Thanks to Christ, we aren't left to wonder why.  1Thess. 4:13: "But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve like other people who have no hope."  

It looks like I will be sharing a eulogy at my father's services.  While it is not easy to reflect on his passing, I think it is theraputic to do so.

Col. Philip Bruce was a classic, best-of-the-best, old-school Air Force officer.  Although he retired when I was very young, and I never really got to see him during his prime years in the Air Force, he never lost his sense of military honor, discipline, and courtesy.  He did not treat his Air Force rank and pilot wings as a job, but as a supreme calling.  He gave the Air Force all of his time and energy, and he was rewarded greatly.

Not only was he a quintessential officer on and off the job, he was also very humble.  He didn't talk much about the prestigious positions and awards he received in his 27 years of service.  In fact, I didn't realize how amazing his AF career was until I asked him as a teenager.  He never made a big deal of being a pilot, and most of the people he interacted with never knew his rank.

I will always remember Dad as a guiding influence on my life.  His understanding of science and technology helped me to see the world in that light, and encouraged me to consider studying engineering.  Talking with him about tools, cars, and airplanes gave me a solid foundation for intuitive understanding of technological areas.  He helped me understand the basics of math and science, and I am grateful for this every time I use scientific notation, unit analysis, or any number of other skills in college coursework.

Last week in Air Science class, we discussed how the Air Force is not merely a job, but is best viewed as a profession, with all the dedication and responsibility that a true profession requires.  Reading in preparation for the class, I realized that because of Dad's example, I already knew the dedication required for a successful AF career years before I ever joined AFROTC.  I knew that an Air Force career comes only second to God and family.  It is a calling, just like being a pastor or missionary.  It is fulfilling, worth investing years of whole-hearted time and effort.  Commissioning as an officer isn't a take-it-or-leave-it, see-how-it-goes experiment, it's a go/no go decision point in life that will require total dedication.  Without being harsh or demanding, while still being a consummate gentleman, he prepared me for the sacrifice and commitment that the military requires.

Through two years in the program, and four weeks of intense training in Alabama and Mississipi, I never once questioned whether I wanted to stay in ROTC.  I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt, and when I heard that Dad's health was failing two weeks in as I was in Mississipi, it was truely surreal.  The man who inspired me to take this course, to go where I was being yelled at and challenged 24/7, was about to pass into the next life.  I think part of the reason that I was able to stay strong and finish well was because I knew it was what he would have done if he were in my boots.

Ever since the afternoon of 19July, when I got called out of that mission debrief by my CO and advised of my dad's possible passing, I have worn my dad's dogtags as a symbol of my devotion to our common cause.

I guess what I'm trying to say is actually one of the best things that could be said of a retired officer - years after retirement, he was still an officer whose very aura automatically instilled qualities and characteristics in his children - qualities that the Air Force has to alternately teach, critique, and yell into cadet's heads through years of training.

Col. Philip Bruce, even though we never crossed paths in uniform, I salute you.  It was an honor to observe and be influenced by your life, and I would like to think that Grandpa was with Peter at the gates as you reported in to your final duty station.


Link to pictures from Dad's life and career:

Friday, September 10, 2010

LOL ... too much?

Life can get way too real and serious at times.  And after a week of classes, Fridays can definately fall under that description.  This is when you grab a friend, and head to the movies for a good comedy.

Tonight's selection was Grown Ups, a movie with all-stars of comedy like Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler, and Chris Rock.  The retorts and one-liners were nearly constant, and although it got out of hand sometimes, the movie had a really satisfying ending.

One of the cool things to me about a comedy is listening to the audience respond to the zingers that the actors deliver.  I enjoy getting caught up in the laughter, and maybe it's my extensive Simpsons/Family Guy viewing, but I found alot of the physical comedy in the movie to be pretty hilarious.

So much so that I began to worry that I might be laughing too much.  Maybe I was embarassing my friend, because I really was enjoying myself.  I didn't want to be "that guy", the awkward laugh-er.

Later this evening, as I think about the great experience I had at the movie, I realize how stupid my concern was.  Laughing too much at a movie like Grown Ups???  I guess crying would be out of the norm, but laughing is why we went, and probably why most people went on a Friday night.  In any college town, after three weeks of classes everyone is ready to forget about life and get some good entertainment.

From Blogger Pictures

I think it's pretty natural to be concerned with what people think of you.  But I'll put myself in a category of people who just might be a little too worried of others' opinions.  If I'm not careful, I'll spend too much time worrying about what people think of me, as if everyone around me is constantly evaluating me.

One of the prerequisites for a healthy friendship is a sense of acceptance.  In order to have true friends, you have to feel welcome in their presence.  You have to be comfortable as your true self.  You can't feel that you have to do something or become someone in order to keep your friendships going.  You have to be comfortable enough to share yourself without feeling judged.

This idea of acceptance in relationships moves from the important to the inspirational as we bring this discussion into the spiritual realm.  Many Christians have not fully accepted the principle of grace.  While they may not live in fear of God's anger, they are constantly afraid that they do not measure up to God's expectations of them as believers.  They are living "on the edge", feeling the need for complete repentance for every sin they commit.  And they begin to obsess over their failures until that consumes their life and they are unable to achieve any measure of success.

While we know the facts of salvation, many of us view salvation purely in the past tense.  We forget that the simple step of trusting in Christ, which began our spiritual journey, is also the principle that keeps it going.  Instead of worrying about what we need to do or become, we need to remember who we are in Christ - fully accepted - choose to believe this, and to live in this assurance.

Interestingly, our culture uses the term "making one's peace with God" to describe what one does while dying.  Seems like this idea of having peace with God, complete calm in our relationship with our Maker, would be a cornerstone of living as well.

The exchanged life, this acceptance of our perfection in Christ, is the only basis on which we can live and pray boldly.  Once we have this understanding, we can face the challenges of life knowing that God is on our side.  With this knowledge in practice, we don't have to be anything for God.  We don't have to do anything to earn His favor.  Through Christ, we can live our lives knowing that God accepts us completely.

I know this was alot of theological discussion, but if you've made it this far, let me just sum it up in this way.

If you're in a healthy relationship with God and others, you can sit in through Grown Ups, and laugh away to your heart's content, knowing that God is in heaven, and all's right with the world.

Go try it.  Next Friday night, I'm going to let the laughter come as it will.  It might even make next week's homework a little more bearable!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Leadership - Bring Your A-Game!!!

I've spent the past two years in AFROTC taking orders, and I've gotten quite used to it. I enjoy being assigned a task, and doing well at it. It's always easier than a college alternative such as another math test.

This summer, I went to Field Training, AFROTC's version of boot camp.  As with all intense military training, there was plenty of yelling and on-the-spot correction. As you stand at attention with your back to the wall, listening to cadets around you get chewed out for minor errors (and get some words your way too), you start to think that the senior cadets yelling at you really have it made. Honestly, who wouldn't want to spend a few minutes as a drill seargent?
(I'm back right.  Can't you see I'm having a boatload of fun?)

It's not all yelling in AFROTC. Most time is spent in calmer training modes. And as I have spent two years in this training, I have noted positives and negatives of the cadets over me. So after Field Training, I wasn't really wanting to yell at the freshman and sophomores. I wanted to be a good quality mentor/trainer, taking the years of experience that I have and giving them quality instruction. Trying to implement continual process improvement in AFROTC training.

It's harder than it seems. We're two weeks into drill instruction, and it's been an eye-opening two weeks.

You take something as simple as drill and ceremony. You can't just instruct it how you learned it. While you are learning from someone else, you just have to track with them and follow what they say. You have to go with their flow, and react to what's going on around you.

When the tables turn and everyone is looking at you for instruction, you have to create the flow. You have to create the training environment, from the ground up. You have to look at the faces of those you are instructing, and read them to see if they are catching on to what you are saying, and when you see their blank stares, you have to adjust to meet them where they are.  At times you stumble for words and race in your mind to remember a regulation or procedure.

Three drill sessions in, and I am starting to get my footing. I have had three groups of cadets who need remedial drill instruction before they join the rest of the cadets in practice. I have worked with other experienced cadets to provide quality instruction for them, and each time I have gotten a little more confident in my new leadership capacity.

There comes a time when everybody gets to move up the ladder of power and authority. Just so happens, its a LOT less stable the higher you climb.


If you're going to lead others, bring your A game! It's harder than it looks!

Friday, September 3, 2010

When life throws you a curve ball ...

Music seems to do a very good job of describing my life.  Weird Al's "It's All About the Pentiums," describes my life as an engineering student, especially the line "They call me the King of the Spreadsheets, I've got 'em all printed out on my bedsheets." :)  In my first post on this blog, I commented on how the Eagles are the perfect sound track for my road trip adventures.

I added to this transitory theme in my music yesterday.  When you have a convertible and fall rolls around, you can't resist dropping the top and cranking the tunes while driving top down through campus.  I was looking for upbeat music to blast through the Bose speakers, when I ran across a 2008 ski-trip playlist.

"Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol was in the mix.  It is a great song, branching from typical rock music to include some deeper thoughts.  Especially the line 

"If I lay here, if I just lay here, 
would you lie with me 
and just forget about the world? ...
I don't quite know how to say 
how I feel.  
Those three words are said too much, 
they're not enough."

Listening to this song brought back fond memories of Karen and me on a later road trip to Kingman, AZ.  We were reviewing our ski trip favorites, and listened over and over to this song, catching the lyrics through the heavy instrumentation and memorizing the song in the process.

From Blogger Pictures

As my Dad has been having severe health problems over the past five years, I have divided my life into work and recreation, the Weird Al and Eagles partitions of my life.  I have really ignored the Chasing Cars portion.

Not all of life is cut and dried.  Sometimes we feel lost, disoriented.  We don't know how to feel, and when we try to express our feelings to those around us, alot is said but it just isn't enough.

The words of this song really spoke to me on that lazy Thursday afternoon.  I have been trying to work through the implications of the passing of my Dad, whenever in the future it happens.  Particularly how I involve my friends in that part of my life.

Only this past summer, as Dad entered his most recent decline, have I chosen to face the idea of his passing.  So this new idea is even more difficult to work with as I renew my friendships with my school friends, and try to decide who I should update on his status.

Snow Patrol has it right.  Sometimes we just want go outside, lie in the grass, forget about everything in the world, and try to sort out our feelings.  And it isn't a logical, mathematical process.  

But it doesn't have to be.  This is part of life - not the busy, productive part, or the fun-loving part.  It's in the middle - actually in a whole 'nother dimension - where we fight our demons and wrestle with our past, present, and future.  

For all the talk about prayer I have heard in my 22 years of church attendance, precious little is centered on the Lord's Prayer, which was His response to his disciples' direct request, "Teach us to pray."  Seems like this should be the central framework of prayer, where we get our most important prayer lessons.

The Lord's Prayer was one of the Scriptures that I mulled over at Field Training, that helped me to get through standing at attention with sweat dripping down my face, that comforted me during the days that Dad's life hung in the balance 1500 miles away.

As far as the dimension of our life filled with personal struggle, that part is at times incomprehensible, The Lord's Prayer gently redirects us from our self-centeredness, and invites us to become part of the greater plan that God has, not just for our life but the whole universe. 

"Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven ... for Thine is the kingdom, and the glory, and power, forever ... AMEN!"

Snow Patrol and The Lord's Prayer ... wonderful thoughts for a Thursday afternoon of making Ipod playlists!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Catching a Break

So as you may have gathered if you've read my previous entries, I work in our school's engineering department.  My job entails working with the faculty, students, and technology requisite for a full-blown engineering curriculum.

I really enjoy my position. It gives me opportunities to interact with the faculty and learn about administering technology on a large scale. Although I normally love my job, sometimes it can get pretty hectic.  This evening I was in the computer lab punching out for the night, and I noticed that the professor who used the lab last failed to turn off the projector.  This is pretty typical of the technological oversight that we see on a daily basis.  It really keeps our work interesting. Although well-meaning, the professors and students naturally don't see things from our point of view. So they don't understand how leaving a projector on could burn out a $500 bulb, or how not cleaning up from a lab experiment leaves me with a few minutes of work for each student. Multiply that by 20 students per class and several classes every day and it can leave me with hours of cleanup.

Not only can the people in my job make things difficult. Technology really has a way of slowing things down when it doesn't function correctly. As I was punching out this evening, the computer was taking very long to log on and open up the browser.   We are still running Windows Vista on the machines, and they are very slow to boot up.  As I am getting frustrated at this second issue confronting me on my way out the door, I noticed a beautiful sunset out the window.  Outside our main academic building, the vibrant colors filled the sky as the U.S. flag hung above the horizon.  It was a striking sight.

I can get so focused on the people, technology and protocols that I interact with on a daily basis.  So much so that they begin to define and encompass my life.  Sometimes I forget that there is a whole gorgeous world outside waiting for me to take the time to appreciate it.  Next time I am waiting on a slow computer or biting my fingernails because the internet is down, I'll take a break from the coffee, laptops, and oscilliscopes, and walk over to a window and see what is going on outside in the real world.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Get the T-Shirt!!!

Seems like one's college career can be illustrated by a closet full of T-shirts.  Regardless of the activity, somebody will make a shirt to commemorate it.

In my college experience, this takes the form of Air Force ROTC apparel ... shirts for each semester, special activity, extracurricular club, Field Training unit and flight ...

In the past, I have taken the position that the $10-15 for each one was generally a waste, since I already have plenty of clothes.  When I inprocessed to Field Training this summer, I passed up the chance to get a unit shirt, since the memorabilia package was fairly expensive and I didn't think Field Training was a big enough deal to need its own article of clothing in my closet.

Halfway through Field Training, we made a flight T-shirt for our team of 21.  I decided to get that one, because I had grown close to the other flight members during the whole process.  I actually began to regret not getting the unit shirt.

Why am I making such a big deal about T-shirts?  Because to me they have come to signify appreciating the stage of life you are at.  It is recognizing that where you are right now is important enough to cost you a little bit of money and take up mental and physical shelf space.

So next time you have an opportunity to buy a commemorative T-shirt, instead of discounting the present, go ahead and take time to congratulate yourself on the present time that you find yourself in.  You might end up having a stack of them taking up space in your closet, but it will be a stack of memories that you can wear!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jumping the gun has advantages!

Just finished my first day of work, it feels great to get back into the old rhythms.  I had some concerns that I might not get my old job back, but I was able to make my class schedule work very well with the new work schedule.

We have had the labs operational for the past year of the two total that I have worked in this job.  It is a great feeling to get to work before school starts, and have a few days to set up some protocol to avoid the problems we have had in the past.

I've made a couple trips with friends to a local lake, and tonight I enjoyed a great dinner downtown with a friend.  Starting my third year here is great not only for the job situation but also for my friendships - two years is a long time.  I really am starting to feel like I am growing roots at this school.

Here's a link to my continuing picture album for this fall:

Well, sorry I don't have anything inspirational tonight.  I will try to not let this blog lapse into a daily diary.  Tomorrow brings the weekend and I should have some good time to relax, think, and write.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

So begins the semester ... ...

So we just wrapped up freshman orientation into AFROTC yesterday.  I had the privilege of teaching tactical marching, room clearing, and first aid.

I don't have much to say about this other than it was alot of fun, and was an excellent introduction to my leadership position this semester.  It was very cool to be on the other side of the fence, and get some real responsibility.  Having the latitude to set up a plan and then go execute it was a great experience.

I found out during orientation that my main responsibility this semester is attendance record keeping for the entire detachment, and importing the attendance into a "points tracker" which gives each cadet a personal score based on how many events they attended.  This is a huge task as this personal score is a big factor in a cadet's ranking in the detachment, which in turn determines if that cadet can stay in AFROTC or get a scholarship.

This brings to mind Weird Al's parody of "It's All About the Benjamins," specifically the line "They call me the king of the spreadsheets, I got 'em all printed out on my bedsheets." ROFL!  I will definitely be putting in some Excel time, hopefully can keep it off of the linens.

A link to AF101 pictures and video:!115&Bpub=SDX.Docs&Bsrc=GetSharingLink&authkey=I4ZyydwzGgc%24

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Switching Ruts on the Road of Life

Cultural wisdom says that ruts are bad.  Repetition leads to boredom.  Newer is better.

I am sitting in church this morning, and the choir starts their number for the morning service.  Now it has been years since I have had the pleasure of hearing a good old-fashioned church choir, with their timeless harmonies and instrumental backup.  Really one of the purest forms of music around.  They are singing "In Christ Alone," a song which meant alot to me when we sang it in chapel my freshman year.  Here are the lyrics if you want to read them.

The words are very inspirational to me.  The song progresses through Christ's life, showing that through his love we are comforted, through His death we are justified, and through His resurrection we have power.  It is emphasizing the power of the exchanged life in Christ and how we can find our all in Him.  This song was very special to me when I was facing a test or other challenge my first year of college.  It helped me to realize that I was not alone in my own strength.

So as I am having fond memories and appreciating the deep spiritual truths of this song, the choir switches to a verse from Amazing Grace.  For a kid who grew up in an independent Baptist church in Smyrna, Georgia, I really appreciate the use of classic hymns in a modern, relevant musical setting.  In fact, now I'm starting to envy the choir.  Although my voice is probably best reserved for singing in the car along with The Eagles, Chicago, or REO where only a copilot is forced to listen, I wish I could partake in these awesome songs.

Then the music leader does something I have never seen in 22 years of church attendance.

He invites the congregation to stand and join in with the choir.

How did I have this marvelous experience?'

For the past two years at school, I have had a rocky church experience.  I started going to campus church, but for someone who has the religious background I described above, fog machines and disco lights don't make you feel very comfortable.  I tried a local southern baptist church, but let's just say my age group wasn't very well represented.  I had finally attended Jerry Falwell's church on the other side of campus, but I didn't like the idea of my spiritual life taking the Falwell brand in addition to my school and work life.

The only bright spot in my church attendance had been when I was home in Phoenix, attending my family's churches.  I enjoyed the welcoming, relaxed atmosphere.  So much so that I started to doubt if the more conservative East Coast environment had anything that could match the T-shirt, shorts and flip flop attire of the Arizona congregations.

Fast forward to my first weekend at school.  I decided to go with my friend Nate to a local church he has attended in the past.  I felt welcomed, and appreciated the whole service, especially the part I described above.

So are ruts in life all bad?  They can be, but I think repetition is an important part of a balanced life.  I look forward to establishing a new tradition of attending a church, quite possibly this one, every weekend while at school.

So when life gives you time to catch up and take a breath - for me this is the beginning of a school semester - take the chance to evaluate the ruts you are in, and decide if you need to switch tracks on the road of life!  You just might find yourself settling into a new routine and singing along to your favorite song.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

I learn about free-spirited decision making

This Friday, I was privileged to work with a local high school cross-country team as an evaluator at a local obstacle course. My AFROTC detachment uses this course to teach team building, as all the obstacles require multiple participants to complete. Several cadets and I have been volunteering at this course, as it is privately owned and operated. After a year of grass mowing and general maintenance around the place a few times a semester, we were invited to come and evaluate this cross-country team, coming as a beginning of semester team-building exercise.

Our group of cadets had already done the obstacles twice in the past two years, so it was fascinating to note the difference between AFROTC 19 year olds and the civilian high schoolers as they tackled the obstacles.

I learned a lesson from these kids as they tackled the obstacles. Our ROTC cadets rely on the analytical disciplines taught them by their respective degree fields, and the specific processes taught by our Air Force instructors and upperclassmen. A classic example of this nuanced thought process is the acronym used to describe a successful execution plan. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act. We are taught to use each of these phases to ensure a complete, almost scientific approach to problem solving.

As I got ready to coach these high school students, I realized that they lacked this advanced training, and without the military discipline we have learned, I was unsure of how they would perform.

What I saw yesterday shocked me. Instead of seeing a group of amateurs trying to work together as a group, I saw a team that came together quickly to meet and even outperform our accomplishments on the course. They did lack the sophistication of military training, but what surprised me was that this tended to make their approach simpler and more matter-of-fact. They strategized more quickly, and started tackling the obstacles faster. They went on to finish obstacles that we got stuck or ran out of time on.

Two observations from this Friday morning at the obstacle course. First of all, trying to plan too far ahead can be a waste of time.  A leader should be able to make a decision and get the ball rolling if he or she has a general idea of how to attack a problem and specific details as to the beginning steps.  This concept is not promoting short-sightedness, but encouraging leadership to make a decision and get things started, even though every last theoretical problem may not have a complete resolution.  A good rule of thumb I have heard is that 70% of the information is enough to make an informed decision.

Secondly, don't let procedures and processes get in the way. I feel that acronyms like OODA are useful when learning how to make decisions, but are somewhat useless in actual decision making processes. They are useful to train the brain in proper methods of analyzing a situation, but when used as guides in a practical solution, they waste time and stunt the thinking process.

Sometimes we as military personnel, active or in training, think that we have to leave everything we have learned up to now in civilian life at the base checkpoint, and only use what the Department of Defense teaches us and think how they teach us to think. This could not be farther from the truth. Instead of brainwashing us, the Air Force teaches cadets how to use our personal life experiences and combine them with military discipline to make us even better leaders.

So next time I find myself in charge of a group of cadets, or evaluating other cadets in that position, instead of criticizing them for not robotically going through the phases of observation, orientation, decision, and action, I will encourage them to loosen up and think naturally. Instead of making their military training a maze through which they have to force themselves to come out the other side with a decision, I will encourage them to use their military training, alongside their personal life experiences, as a foundation on which they have freedom to make an intelligent decision.

AFROTC returns to train the new cadets at the obstacle course mid-September. Hopefully, this year we can combine the intuitiveness that I observed in the high school cross-country team with the traditional analytical skills of ROTC cadets to create top-notch, record-setting, obstacle-conquering super cadets!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A journey of 2450 miles ends on the last mile

So I am sitting in my townhouse in Lynchburg.  It has been four very long days of traveling from Phoenix, AZ to Virginia.

Why would one want to drive over 2000 miles to school?  I suppose for me it is such things as the freedom of the open road, the rythms of driving, and the music on the radio.  Spend an hour listening to classics such as the Eagles "Take it to the Limit", "Life is a Highway" by Rascall Flatts, or the old country song "Six Days on the Road", and you'll understand where I am coming from.  The Eagle's lyrics stand out specifically in my mind  "So put me on a highway, show me the signs, and take it to the limit ... one more time".

A video of highlights of the trip:

So much of life is really like the driving experience ... in retrospect it flies by just like the blades of grass on the side of the highway.

Thus I spent two days driving from Phoenix to Ellijay, GA, and today from GA to VA.

It has been a good time to think about the summer, and how fast it has gone.  This is a unique perspective for me, facing another challenging year at school.  I think it is good for all of us to have time to process and do nothing for a while.  For me it was about 35 hours of driving, and I can definitely say that I am better for it.

This year will be interesting for me as I am beginning my cadet officer career in AFROTC.  It will bring alot of leadership opportunities, and I look forward to them as much or more than the next fuel stop/stretch break on the road.

Just as road tripping is all about the next bend in the road, I look forward to what this year brings me.  I just hope I am not so focused on what is around the corner that I ignore the beauty on my present stretch of road!