Shoveling past status quo

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Seth Beaubien
  • 319th Operations Group deputy commander
When we were stationed at Ramstein, our family lived in a small farming village above a small apartment occupied by our landlord's grandmother, a wonderful lady named Frau Dietrich. She was a stereotypic German, proud of her garden, her flower boxes and the pristine condition of her driveway and sidewalks. She was right to be well-pleased with her yard and surroundings as she put much hard work into them. When December arrived, the foggy, wet German clouds spit snow instead of rain, and I knew if I did not to get up and shovel our driveway, Frau Dietrich would beat me to it, and the lady 50 years my senior would be out there in the cold wet wind. While on occasion, guilt can sometimes be used as a tool to get the job done, it cannot match inspired internal motivation.

Dec. 30, 2008, I witnessed such motivation. The 319th Air Refueling Wing was tasked to air refuel 10 F-16s down over Dallas. As part of the mission, the Warriors of The North were scheduled to launch a two-ship cell formation of KC-135s to cover the air refueling and provide aircraft commander upgrade training to one of our young pilots who was tasked to lead the formation. Due to the priority of the training, a third spare tanker was generated early in the cold (it was in the teens below zero before factoring in wind chill), dark hours of the morning to increase the likelihood of success.

Sitting in the left seat of the number two aircraft, I was anxious to get off the ground and get on with the mission. Murphy's law and the cold combined to cause us to abort the takeoff for low oil pressure readings on one of the engines and a subsequent cracked co-pilot's window made the spare aircraft our only option to try and catch up with our lead aircraft now headed south. A crew had completed preflight procedures and warmed tail number 61-292, but we had not deiced the aircraft in order to avoid wasting very expensive deicing fluid. While we scurried across the ramp with all of our gear and tried to catch up, and as aircraft deicing commenced, it became evident snow drifts had accumulated in front of the aircraft that would preclude us from taxiing off spot C-24.

The aircraft maintenance squadron's production supervisor and I were in his truck discussing options to get the aircraft off the spot. We thought a uke and tow team could get the aircraft onto the cleanly plowed portion of the mass parking area and a tow vehicle was called. In the meantime, crew chiefs poured out of the white bread van with shovels, a small front-end loader and pickup with a snowplow descended on spot C-24. About a dozen bundled Warriors of the North, from a captain aircraft commander to airmen crew chiefs, had the snow flying from out in front of the engines and landing gear. Within about 10 minutes and before a tow vehicle could even make its way to the ramp, aircraft 61-292 was dug out and ready to launch. The kind of teamwork, drive, dedication and commitment shown on the frigid, snowy ramp the morning of Dec. 30 is a shining example of second mile (or second shovel...) leadership in action and the reason why I am so proud to be a part of this wing!

Grand Forks' winters are tough: they build and test character. Nevertheless, second mile leaders don't complain, they overcome; they don't avoid, they adapt; they don't settle, they strive and as a result the Warriors of The North have a reputation for excellence, teamwork and mission success worldwide. Grab a shovel! Use your gifts and talents to improve the status quo, our workplace, our neighborhood, our schools, our world. Grab your shovel, is your neighbor's spouse deployed? Grab your shovel, are the tasks, reports and inspections piling up? Grab you shovel, have we been attacking the same problem the same way forever? Grab your shovel, are there folks in the squadron who need a wingman? Second mile leaders don't walk past problems, they attack them.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, if he wins, knows the thrills of high achievement, and, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." The defense of our constitution and those who live in the light of its liberties is a noble and very worthy cause. So grab your shovel, know great enthusiasms and go that extra mile, thrills await you!