Wingman or Assassin...the choice is yours

  • Published
  • By Col. John Michel
  • 319th Air Refueling Wing commander
A thousand years ago, a rebellious Islamic sect seized control of a mountaintop castle in Teheran -- today found in modern day Iran.

This was the first in a series of attacks these dissident Shiites waged against political leaders of the Islamic world. Using their weapon of choice, the dagger, these men murdered princes, scholars, crusaders and anyone else they felt did not support their agenda.

History tells us the founder of this group was Hassan-I-Sabbah; a man who epitomized the extreme nature of this sect, ordering the death of his own son for drinking wine. This group of dangerous killers was known for having flexible allegiances of executing crusaders at one moment and then carrying out execution attempts on behalf of the Crusaders when it so suited them the next. The only true loyalty these men had was to their own agenda.

In many respects, they were a precursor to the terrorist factions such as Al-Qaeda, whom we are all too familiar with today. These were ruthless men who specialized in eliminating anyone who did not share their view of society or the world. They were a band of professional "hitmen" who exploited fear and terror at the very mention of their chosen name: the Assassins.

For almost 150 years, the power of this rebel sect intensified, until Genghis Khan's grandson, Hulagu, captured their principle mountain stronghold and broke their reign of terror.

It's important to note it was not Hulagu's superior military capability that led to the demise of this extreme sect, instead it was in the breeding of habits like backstabbing, lying, cheating and the pursuit of individual agendas which caused these men to turn these same practices on themselves. Slowly but surely, these self-oriented killers destroyed their organization -- from the inside out!

Today, the word assassin is familiar to most of us. However, what we may not realize is assassins are not limited to wayward sects or radical ideologies. In fact, organizations have them also.

It's true -- organizational assassins of today are every bit as deadly as they were a millennium ago. Although they may not use daggers to achieve their objectives, they do employ something equally powerful: hateful words, deception, intimidation and manipulation. Like the rebellious sects of the 11th century, their allegiance is also flexible, often shifting to the individual or group who helps them promote their own agenda over that of the team.

So, does anything in this story ring true for you? Do you know any organizational assassins? Have you enabled, encouraged or assisted them when they set out to pursue their personal agenda over that of the team? Or worse, have you ever used the dagger of malice, envy, anger or selfishness to promote yourself over your teammates?

If you have, rest assured you're not alone. But what's important today is not what you've done in the past, but what you will choose to do in the future.

If you are truly committed to being the best teammate you can be and that your colleagues deserve to see, you will lay the dagger down once and for all. For only then can you share one of your greatest gifts, your undivided loyalty, with those who deserve it the most: those who call you their spouse, parent, child, business associate, worship partner, friend, teammate, or fellow Airmen. Only then can you fulfill your role in ensuring we forever rid ourselves of the assassins in our homes, workplaces, worship spaces and communities who seek to divide, derail and destroy. Only then are we able to rid ourselves of the hitmen in our midst and move one step closer to being the kind of team every person at Grand Forks AFB desires, deserves and demands!

So again, the choice rests with you. Who will you support when the time comes -- the assassin or your team? Will you choose to promote your own agenda over that of your teammates? Or will you make the core values of integrity, selfless service and excellence in all you do real through your actions?

Choose wisely, for your choice communicates volumes about who you really are ... both inside and out!