Leadership Lessons: Preparedness

  • Published
  • By Capt. Kendall Benton
  • 319th Security Forces Squadron
Although I was never a boy scout, the concept of preparedness was instilled in me at an early age. This mindset has come in quite handy through my years growing up. My dad, like many fathers, thought it was important for a young man to be able to take care of himself and survive whatever is thrown at him which led to many lessons being learned during camping and hunting trips. Initially, I thought these were just fun activities with my dad. Little did I know the simple skills I learned were going to be the foundation that would later prepare me for future endeavors.

While a student at Louisiana Tech University I was unfortunately a witness to the displacement of thousands of people during Hurricane Katrina. At the time I was working on campus as a Tech PD ticket writer and was pulled from my duties to move mattresses into an abandoned dorm facility. The university opened its doors to several hundred evacuees and I witnessed firsthand the effect of ill preparedness. I watched as more and more people showed up with nothing but the clothes on their back and their children in their arms.

Another lesson unfortunately occurred at my first duty station.  I had the unique opportunity to go to Camp Guernsey Wyoming in January (in the Air Force's infinite wisdom) for training. As per Murphy's Law it so happened the only bag that made it with me to Camp Guernsey was my carry on. My duffel bag (the one with all my cold weather clothes) arrived four days later due to a mix up at the airport. Had it not been for training I had received on how to pack a carry on and my mindset of preparedness it would have been a long and miserable four days in the -18 F weather. Little did I know that this experience would be valuable to me two years later when I was informed that I would be moving to North Dakota.

Now that I am stationed at Grand Forks, partially thanks to my time at Camp Guernsey, I fully understand the importance of being prepared, especially for cold weather. When I arrived in November 2013 the temperature was -12 F and my first stop after reporting in was Cabela's Sporting Goods store for appropriate cold weather gear. At the time I only owned the uniform equipment I was issued for my trip several years ago to Camp Guernsey.  Several months later the snow melted and I was left with the threat of flooding. I had read about the flooding at Minot several years prior but did not entirely understand the impact of terrain and snowmelt. Several months after that I had the all too familiar experience of tornado weather. Having grown up in East Texas, tornados were nothing new to me but I will admit I was not expecting them and quickly realized in my new location I was not prepared for them. I decided to take the Skywarn class and get smart on how tornados worked. Let me tell you up front that I am not an adrenaline junky and I do not enjoy adverse weather conditions. However, there is a sense of satisfaction from knowing that you are prepared to handle whatever Mother Nature throws your way. Although I have mostly focused on preparedness for weather events it is important to note that natural disasters are just the beginning. Being prepared is not just about preparing for nature but also preparing for any threatening situation. With the recent increase in homegrown terrorist activity and calls for attacks against military personnel and their families at home, it is more important than ever to be prepared.

Before you go labeling me as a crazy prepper type, let me admit upfront that I am not a zombie hunter, doomsday prepper, or Armageddon survivalist. I am just a simple country boy that was raised with a preparedness mindset. Also let me emphasize that I am not a gear junkie and preparedness is not about how much "stuff" you have. Many of the evacuees from Katrina had plenty of supplies at their homes but they were unwilling to make the decision that it was time to leave. Although having supplies helps, and www.ready.gov is a good place to start, the mindset is what is important. All of the gear in the world will not help you if you do not have the training and intestinal fortitude to use it.