Put me in coach

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- As I remember my days playing little league baseball, I remember getting ready for the big games, making sure my uniform, cleats and glove were in top condition. I would pressure my parents to have me at the ball park early enough to make sure the coach knew I was ready to play.

As game time neared and I listened intently to where I would be playing, I realized that today I would play "butt back." Yes, that time-honored position that as the coach yelled, "Let's take the field," and I began to take the field, I would hear, "Craver, get your butt back on the bench."

As a 10-year-old, I was devastated. I worked hard to earn a position on the team. I showed up for every practice and was ready to play ball, but there were only certain amount of positions available, and this was not my time.

A major league team holds 25 players on their final roster. However, when the time comes to take the field, only nine players leave the dug out to start the game. The remaining 16 players support the team from the bench and stand ready to enter the game when called. It does not stop there, as many other people, not in uniform, but just as important to the team's success work behind the scenes to make sure that the starting nine have all the resources necessary to compete for the win.

The same can be said for Team Aviano. Depending on the time of year, we will select folks for various opportunities to represent this wing. In doing so, no matter how many people would like the opportunity, there will be limited positions available, but we must continue to stand ready to support and to step in when called.

How many of us have faced similar experiences? Be it a deployment, TDY, special course or leadership opportunity, there will be times when you are not selected to take the field. Your support however is just as essential in accomplishing the mission. Our mission is to deliver combat power and support across the globe to achieve U.S. and NATO objectives. You will notice that support is a large part of the mission statement. To accomplish our mission, it takes a team of dedicated professionals working together to guarantee success. It takes both those wearing the uniform and those who are not to come together to ensure all aspects of the mission are successful.

John C. Maxwell, author of the 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork, stated, "A great starter alone is simply not enough if a team wants to go to the highest level...Today's bench players may be tomorrow's starters." For those of you who are chomping at the bit to deploy, get promoted or advance in your work centers by assuming more responsibilities, I would offer to continue preparing for the opportunities that can come sooner than you think.

Of course as you read this, you know I never became a major league ball payer. I did however play my share of games and have some very good memories as a result. In fact during that game mentioned above, our second baseman slid into third base and sprained his ankle. I was called on to pinch run and finish the game at second base. We won the game and I would love to tell you that I made the play that won the game, but I did not. What I did was allow the team to finish and complete the game. This was possible because I was ready when called.

As a member of Team Aviano, we have been blessed with many opportunities. At times, we are starters, and at other times, we support the team from the bench. We must realize that each role we play is critical to the success of the team and stand ready to perform the role that is needed. Put us in coach; we are ready!