Commentary by Jeffery Hunt
50th Space Wing director of staff
It is once again my turn to share some thoughts with you. This story I’m trying to relay to you is about being a leader, a supervisor and a parent and the challenges we face every day in these roles.
Five weeks ago, after going bird hunting I decided I was ready to get a dog back into our household. It had taken me almost six years to get to this point after losing our black lab Duchess of 14 years.
I didn’t tell my wife, Kris, I was thinking of getting a dog later this year, so she covertly recruited a conspirator who approached me concerning a German Shorthair that was near completion in her training. Me and my big mouth! I called the trainer and agreed to meet and look at the puppy and her work ethic. Kris fell for her immediately. I took a little while even though I knew in my heart she was going to be ours.
My only rule for another dog was that it needed to work for me, basically, hunt birds! We agreed to buy her and a week later we took our dog home. She is nine months old and her name is Reese. I will tell you she has two personalities: the working, hunting personality and the pure got-to-run-all-over-the- place, chew-on-everything puppy personality. Fortunately, we love both of them even though the puppy personality tries our patience.
I’ve taken her hunting several times in the last several weeks and for her age and experience she is truly remarkable, at least in my opinion. The hunting collar changes everything about her. She transforms and it’s all about business.
I let her work and occasionally have to use the whistle to keep her within my comfort zone. This area is still a work in progress as she gets used to me and I to her. It’s a continuous feedback, training, education and learning for us. Unfortunately, during every hunt, Reese will not stop hunting. The last time she refused to listen to my calls to come back, to my whistle (part of the training she has done) and even the tone that comes through her hunting collar. These steps are the order I go through, as indicated to me by the trainer, until I have to go to the last choice which is using the collar to communicate discipline. I won’t describe it here, but it gets her attention quickly and then she returns to the truck.
Last weekend was again a true adventure with Reese. When we got home on Friday, she had an accident in her crate. Bless her, but she was a nervous wreck. Unfortunately, for the next 12-18 hours she continued to have bowel problems. Both of us were concerned and we took her to the vet who deemed that it was stressed induced. New environment, new owners, new everything and it had all come crashing down on her.
So why do I tell a story about our newly acquired pet? I came to realize that having Reese brought new responsibilities and roles. I also saw how the roles and responsibilities are similar to what I do every day as the director of staff, as a supervisor and as a leader. For example, Reese is a trained hunting dog. She needs to continue gaining experience and confidence in her abilities. That means I need to take her hunting. Because of her hunting abilities she has to stay physically fit. We take Reese on long walks each day. She needs to understand right from wrong actions at home. That falls on our shoulders to teach and be consistent with discipline and praise. With that comes feedback. Yes, indeed she expects feedback. When she does something right, we need to reinforce that behavior. When she does something wrong immediate feedback is necessary to correct the problem. We need to take care of her health and ensure her checkups and shots are up to date every year.
We do these same things for our people every day. We provide our Airmen the opportunity to gain in experience and confidence in their work centers. We encourage and motivate our people to continue to work to improve their physical fitness. And as wingmen we keep a look out for the health and well-being of our coworkers and teammates, especially during changes. When needed, we also discipline to ensure we all comply with the established standards and requirements of our positions. Throughout all of these encounters we should provide feedback so our people know when they are either on the right track or veering astray.
Everything we do as leaders, parents and supervisors is a constant challenge, a daily battle to help and assist our people, children, etc. It’s a day-to-day work in progress to educate, train and mentor. As I reflect back on my more than 28 years of service and think about those who I’ve helped through the bumps and bruises I also remember the bumps and bruises I went through and those mentors, leaders and friends who took the time and effort to help me through the rough times.
As I close this article I’d like to remind everyone how everything can change in an instant. Recently, Kris was taking Reese for her morning walk when our retractable 16-foot leash snapped and Reese took off. Kris and I got in the truck and went looking for her and after about five minutes of driving around, I saw an animal out of my right peripheral vision coming out in front of the truck. In that split second we both realized it was Reese. I tried to stop and steer the truck from running over her with the tires. I hit her dead center of the truck and knew that I just seriously hurt or killed my puppy.
Kris was crying as she got out the truck before I stopped. As I got out I was shaking and crying. I looked back, expecting to see our puppy laying in the road but, my eyes took in a different view. Reese was up and running toward Kris. After gathering my thoughts and prayers I got back in the truck and backed up off the road where Kris and Reese were. I was getting feedback from Reese at that moment. Reese was looking at me with joy in her eyes and her little tail shaking back and forth. A miracle had happened and she was unhurt. Kris walked her back home and we spent the day with each other as we will continue to do as long as possible. The story continues.