Thursday, October 9, 2008

VIEW FROM TOP>>We’re one bad decision away

By Brig. Gen. Rowayne A. Schatz, Jr.
19th Airlift Wing commander

First, I’d like to thank the entire team for showing off the best of Team Little Rock during General Lorenz’s visit and the superbly executed host-base transfer ceremony. Well Done!

Today, we are holding our fall Sports Day! This day is our opportunity to have some fun, participate in friendly competition and decompress. I’ll be participating in the 5k run and volleyball. I hope to see all of you out there competing and having fun! We need to keep Team Little Rock healthy and happy.

Next week we put our best foot forward for the public during the air show. This is our opportunity to show the community and taxpayers what America’s Airmen do day in and day out. I encourage you to be good Air Force ambassadors and share your story with the people visiting the Rock.

Airpower Arkansas 2008 will be a spectacular show with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, U.S. Army Golden Knights, and the world-class C-130 Combat Airlift capabilities headlining. Each performer in this year’s show is truly outstanding, and this air show should prove to be the best yet!

Our base had a DUI last week. I can’t emphasize enough to the men and women of the Rock how important it is to have a plan when you choose to drink.

I read an article recently about a young Airman who made a poor choice. This young Airman was happily married, had a satisfying job, and had just been selected for promotion to Staff Sergeant. He and his young wife had been married for slightly more than a year. Both loved the Air Force and took advantage of all the benefits it afforded them.

One night after drinking and dancing, the Airman arrogantly decided that although he’d had a bottle of wine, a few beers, and a mixed drink in only four hours, he was well enough to drive himself and his wife home. While driving home, he foolishly tried to keep up with a friend who was speeding in a different car. While going around a curve that he knew very well, his vehicle slammed into a concrete pole, completely obliterating the vehicle’s passenger side and ripping his wife from the front seat. His wife was thrown headfirst into the concrete pole - an injury that proved fatal.

Those who knew his wife described her as full of life, happy, and never without her unmistakable, beautiful smile. The Airman was court-martialed, received a bad conduct discharge, a year of confinement, forfeiture of $550 a month for 12 months, and a reduction in grade to Airman Basic. For the rest of his life, he will have difficulty finding meaningful employment or obtaining credit. The Airman, however, would tell you that all these burdens are small in comparison to the loss of the loved one whose life he destroyed.

Please, don’t disregard this story and think this could never happen to you, because he would beg to differ. That Airman is me. That Airman is you. He is all of us. All we have to do is make the wrong decision once to negate making the right decision a thousand times. Never let your guard down, always have a plan, and tell your wingman to intervene when you’re about to make a dumb decision.

The impact of the decisions you make is felt by many. By taking care of yourself, you take care of your family, your friends, your co-workers, our base, our mission, and our country. Your life and the lives of those you care about are worth more than one bad decision.

Thank you for all you do every day. Combat Airlift!


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