Commentary by Lt. Col. Theresa Malasavage
50th Operations Support Squadron commander
Each year as the holidays approach, I can’t help but think of all the wonderful childhood memories I had growing up with my family in small town Pennsylvania. The time we spent together celebrating and upholding traditions lingers in my mind as I feel the weather changing, see the decorations in the local department stores and seek out the best turkey sales in the local supermarkets. As military members we face the reality that we may not be able to spend the holidays and special occasions with our families. Instead we celebrate with the folks around us. The reality is that we don’t have to settle; we have an amazing Air Force family that surrounds us and supports us every day.
There are many references to and opinions about the meaning of Air Force family. I just recently witnessed an event that highlighted the resilience and unwavering strength of our family. Nothing touched me so deeply regarding the power of Air Force family, until tragedy struck close to home.
What began as a story of misfortune and near death, developed into a story of strength, hope and true family. You see, one of the members of my squadron was severely injured and I faced the arduous task of notifying his mother and father. A difficult undertaking eased by my (and your) Air Force family…a First Sergeant, a Casualty Assistance Representative, a supervisor, a spouse and surprisingly enough, a family (I never met) who opened their hearts to their son’s Air Force family who also faced a devastating situation.
During the course of several weeks I really began to understand what Air Force family means. Squadron members donated meals for the family; a tight-knit group spent countless hours at the hospital and our Air Force medical community championed topnotch care. A chaplain provided spiritual support; the Services team secured the family a place to stay and a legal team assisted with the details … all in the name of the Air Force. Thank you. All of these support structures launching into action should really come as no surprise to anyone in this our Air Force, but to see it all in action was extraordinary. I stepped back in awe. That’s my Air Force. This is why I serve. The tragedy unequivocally reinforced the strength of our Air Force family bond.
We said farewell to a young Airman who’s facing a long road to recovery with the hope that one day he will return to us. Until then the mission continues. Hard work. Dedication. Focus. Flawlessness.
For the last five months I’ve had the privilege of commanding a first-class squadron. It’s been a blessing to have the diverse mission responsibility — intelligence, weapons and tactics, training management, deployment management and operations training. There is an incredible amount of talent and diversity that surrounds me every day. People continually amaze me with their dedication and focus on our mission. For this I am fortunate to serve the men and women of the 50th Operations Support Squadron.
Airmen will come and go. There are the fun loving ones, the hard chargers, the disgruntled ones, and the ones that remind you of your most “interesting” cousins. It’s been a great opportunity and privilege to get to know folks from all walks of life and to learn what makes them tick. I’ve watched my OSS family struggle and shine, and through it all we have become better Airmen.
My advice … get to know the people around you. Put the emails aside and talk. Everyone has a story. No regrets. We were lucky that we did not lose a fellow Airman, a member of our Air Force family. Two families came together, became stronger and established a bond like I could have never anticipated. I am better for it … a better commander and a strong believer in the power of the Air Force family.