Commentary by Maj. Thomas Smicklas
50th Comptroller Squadron commander
“Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond to it.” Lou Holtz, Notre Dame Football Coach.
Do you remember your first day in the Air Force, the birth of your child, your wedding day? I bet you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing on certain influential dates in your life. How about April 27, 2010? That marked the day the 50th Space Wing passed the operational readiness and compliance inspection. Well, not all of the 50 SW.
One squadron didn’t quite make the mark; my squadron, the 50th Comptroller Squadron. I found out in the base gym with more than a thousand Airmen watching. I was standing in the back when the results shot across the gym. 50 CPTS not in compliance — as if it couldn’t get any worse, behind me was an Airman who voiced out-loud, “I could’ve told you that.” Clearly, this Airman knew nothing about the blood, sweat and tears we put in to shine during the inspection. Especially after the 50 CPTS was recently recognized with the best overall performance metrics in the command.
Leading up to the inspection, I was in my first year of command and was convinced we were prepared, convinced we would pass and hopeful we would prove perfect. Can you believe that? I really thought we had a shot at receiving the highest marks during an inspection. Here we are more than a year later and I’m not interested in passing blame, pointing fingers or making allegations. As the commander, it’s my job to be accountable and a failing mark is a direct reflection of my ability to get the job done.
On April 28, 2010, while the rest of the wing exhaled and fist bumped, the 50 CPTS quietly went back to work. While the rest of the wing celebrated with softball games, picnics, off sites and down days, we picked up right where we left off back in the office. Imagine that for a minute, how would you have felt working 70 hours a week for months leading up to the inspection only to keep going after the inspection to try and sort out the problems?
Now, don’t get me wrong, we did celebrate with the rest of the wing and we were proud of the progress we made, but there’s no denying that there was a huge cloud of guilt over every single opportunity to smile knowing that we had failed to make the mark.
I will never forget April 27, 2010 and the unbelievable focus, courage and determination that it took for the entire 50 SW to pass those inspections. I will also remember those that belonged to squadrons not so lucky that day. I’d ask you to consider the same as you progress throughout your careers and to realize and appreciate the exemplary discipline it takes for squadrons that aren’t so fortunate during inspections to keep coming back to work each and every day, never giving up and reacting like professional, trained Airmen. Never losing bearing or focus; committed to doing the same thing they are doing everyday — serving our country.
You hear a lot about professional performers, teams and strengths, not so much about the under performers and for good reason I suppose. My advice, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a blow as devastating as failing a major command inspection, or any situation in life for that matter; react like Coach Holtz suggests — don’t let anyone around you quit, make a decision together, as a team, to move forward based on your strengths, commitment and above all, demonstrated capability. Don’t let anybody convince you otherwise and most importantly never, ever, ever give up.