Striking a balance: Adjusting military obligations with family time Published Sept. 15, 2006 By Lt. Col. David F. Lynch 31st Security Forces Squadron commander Aviano Air Base, Italy -- Today's expeditionary Air Force places much greater demands on our military families and, with those greater demands, we must accept increased responsibility. I am not suggesting anyone sacrifice family for mission. On the contrary, I encourage everyone to strike a balance. The next time you plan to miss your child's ballet recital or baseball game, ask yourself if you can't find a way to strike a balance to meet your family needs also. All of us will be better Airmen if we recognize the significant impact our family relationships have on mission accomplishment. Have you ever thought about the people who will cry at your funeral? Those people, primarily our family members, are the ones who support us everyday as we defend our country. We have a duty to uphold our devotion to family because it is our families who enable us to accomplish our mission. Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do, including our family relationships, improves mission effectiveness. Integrity first applies at home just as much as on the flightline. Our integrity must always be our guiding force, including in our family relationships. Whether married or single, parent or child, we have an inherent duty to do our best to fulfill family needs because, just like our boss at work, our families at home expect us to be there for them and do the right thing. We should look for those opportunities to nurture our family relationships just like we look for opportunities to nurture Airmen at work. As our parents get older, they may need more attention from us for either physical or emotional support. Likewise, for those of us who are married, we owe our spouse the same level of commitment today as we did the day we originally promised to love and support them. Finally, our children - regardless of age - need our parental nurturing as they progress through each stage of their development. We must determine and satisfy our family needs by taking every opportunity to strengthen our relationships while at home station. By preserving the integrity of our family relationships, we are better able to perform our mission because we can be confident they'll be prepared for those times when we must spend long hours on the job and, more importantly, during the long months of deployment. Those mission-driven absences from family don't relieve us of our principle of service before self with respect to our families; in fact, they increase the need to include service to our family before self. It is obvious as we prepare for inspections that we are all prepared to do what it takes, regardless of the number of hours, to meet mission requirements ... service before self for the mission comes natural to Airmen. What about service before self to meet family requirements? We all enjoy the opportunity for solitude or some time out with friends and co-workers, especially after many long hours on the job or post-deployment, but we shouldn't sacrifice family needs for personal ones. How often do we stay late at work to complete a non-critical task? By staying late to complete non-critical tasks rather than deferring to the next duty day, we sacrifice time with family - time we can't get back. Again, we need to strike a balance and remember service before self shouldn't mean service instead of family. Finally, excellence in all we do includes every aspect of our lives. As Airmen, we all feel a strong desire to excel in our Air Force specialty. What about in our family roles? Whether spouse, son, daughter, mother or father, we must also strive to excel in our family situations. Our spouse, children and parents have certain expectations of us and we must do our best to meet and exceed their expectations. While we don't receive medals or awards for exceeding family expectations, the reward of a son's smile when he sees you on the sidelines as he's running down the soccer field is worth more than any medal or letter of appreciation. Our core values are more than just a cliché; they are the essence of our being and define us as Airmen. Our core values not only allow us to accomplish our military mission, they also enable us to cope with the greater demands the mission puts on our family. By striking a balance between mission and family, we strengthen both and reduce the likelihood of our Air Force career outlasting our family.