RIF

RIF Reduction in force. Dreaded words for officers in the United States Air Force. Yesterday I learned that yes indeed chaplain may be faced with being asked to leave the Air Force because we are over strength. A 10% draw down of the office corp is coming. So this year it looks like I'll face my first RIF board and learn if I continue to have the privilege of serving as a chaplain in the world's finest Air Force.

As I read the words that chaplains were to be considered it hit home as to why this is so important to me and why it doesn't surprise me. See the reason we are over strength is that officers are staying in the Air Force beyond what one would think. Some say that is because the economy is bad and perhaps that is part of it. But I truly believe a great deal more is at play than just people wanting a job. The people I work with, officer and enlisted, don't just want a job... they want their job -- this job. I can't speak for them but I know why I love my job.

First it is plain and simple the people I work with. I have never worked with a finer group of men and women in my life than I find at every single duty station where I have served.

I was recently asked to take charge of our unit's physical training program given I have some history and success with physical training. The Air Force recently instituted changes that have made our physical training test more demanding and our folks have stepped up. Every week this winter they have inspired me as at O'dark thirty they have gotten up and while most people are still in bed and joined to run and workout. Because of the nature of this particular group, most are over the age of 40 and yet they can run circles around the typical young adult. How many folks are out running 2-4 miles on a regular basis before dawn? Every single one of my airmen. Then they go to work and turn in at full pace worked packed 8-14 hour days (depending on the day and the demands of the job). Many of these guys are at their stations getting the job done 7 days a week. Dedication. Hard work. Production. They are amazing.

But beyond this they serve as an inspiration -- not just the one's in uniform but our extended Air Force family -- our civilian employees and our families. When one of my chapel ladies came down with cancer the biggest challenge that presented itself was finding a way to plug in all the folks who stepped forward to enfold this family in their arms and to help. From food, to child care, to transportation, to singing Christmas carols on the doorstep... there was no doubt this family would have anything they needed so they could concentrate on getting Mom well. With my airmen this is not the exception... this is the standard.

I love my job because I love these people.

This week sometime we will remember one of our fallen airmen... a young 20 year old man, Christoffer Johnson, who when the time for deployment into harm's way came, stepped forward and volunteered to stand the line between evil and liberty. He was killed while on patrol in the desert in a vehicle accident. A true loss of a noble heart.

I love my job because I get to serve with these people and I get to serve these people. I've been invited into the lives of those grieving the loss of loved ones, and those struggling to hold their marriages together through financial difficulty and long separations. I've celebrated with families when blessed with the news of coming little ones and I've joined folks together in marriage. I've laid to rest thousands of veterans with honor and I've had the honor of praying for a multitude of retirements, promotion ceremonies, WWII squadron reunions, laid wreaths at the graves of fallen soldiers in Arlington, and prayed to remember the fallen at Kohbar Towers. I've preached all over the US, in South Korea, in the United Kingdom and in Iraq. I've prayed for soldiers as they geared up to patrol the streets of Kirkuk and airmen as they moved out to take their post on the perimeter in the midst of the desert. I've prayed with EOD troops who lost a comrad and held the hands and prayed for those who came to our hospital as their first step home after being wounded. I've carried my brothers on their first steps home when they have fallen and stood with my fellow warriors rendering salute as the plane made its taxi to take our fallen home. I've done marriage enhancement seminars, played with military youth, talked about the difficulties of parents who go to war with these kids. I've conducted suicide prevention briefs and divorce recovery groups. I have stood in the presence of giants like Col (ret.) Norm McDaniel who came and spoke for me last year at our National Prayer Breakfast in Korea.

I remember when I was a young man and not certain where I was going praying to God that I didn't ask for an easy path just a possible path and one that would make a difference. I love my job because every days I am invited into the lives of my fellow service members to make a difference and with them -- we do make a difference.

I would miss my job if asked to leave. I would miss these people. It would be especially hard to leave in the midst of a war when it is not yet finished. Too much is at stake. But if I am asked to separate I will be thankful that I've had six years, the best six years thus far of my life, to serve with the finest folks doing the most important thing that can be done in the world right now.