The ultimate battle: airline passenger vs. carry-on

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt Atticus C. Smith
  • 388th Fighter Wing command chief
Most air travelers will admit they "people watch." When I travel, one of the more spectacular events I enjoy watching is when people attempt to find a place to store their overstuffed carry-on baggage. Sometimes a fierce bout takes place, much like a mixed martial arts match; nonstop punches, elbows and kicks.

When I see a match occur, I sense others are quietly asking the same thing I am, "Come on, why don't you just check it?" These mixed martial arts-like events seem to happen more often since most airlines charge for checked baggage.

Although we may not be that person struggling with the overstuffed carry-on baggage, we all share a common bond in struggling with and carrying life's baggage. It's no surprise that life can be difficult, in fact, some areas of our lives may leave us feeling like we received a pounding, but steps to safely operate in our life's "cage match" are all within reach.

Much like an airliner that may rely on four engines to safely operate, each of us rely on four dimensions of human wellness: the physical, emotional, social and spiritual aspects to safely operate in our daily lives. In your life, if a fierce bout takes place due to attempting to find a place to store your life's baggage, all I can ask is, "Come on, why don't you just check it?!"

Within every organization, there are options to check your baggage and there isn't anything wrong with it. Use the curbside check-in and speak directly with your friends, supervisor or first sergeant. Another option is to use the first-class check-in and speak directly with your chaplain or commander. In every case, no matter what challenges you have, there are people trained, willing and excited to help with "scheduled" or "unscheduled" maintenance. Difficult times will occur, and our personal mission effectiveness rates will fluctuate. The key is balance.

Each of the four dimensions, or engines, must operate effectively to ensure a safe flight through life. If you experience minor challenges in multiple dimensions, which are very common, it is cause for concern, but most likely, you can fly safely. However, having one or more dimensions "flame out" in-flight is serious, and nothing should stop you from sending a mayday call. I've sent several in my life; most dealt with relationships.

In my early 20s, I was deeply in love with my first love. Then she dumped me, and I was devastated. Being down in the dumps was an understatement; I thought I would never find another person like her. I turned to my first-line supervisor and checked my baggage. Soon I found comfort and moved on. Fast-forward five years, and I find myself married. I thought I had what it took to have a successful marriage, but after three years, I learned I was wrong. Arguments were the norm, and it was affecting me personally and professionally. The people who were watching me saw it, asked me about it, and it felt good to talk. Until this day, I still don't have very good relationship skills, but I sure know how to check my baggage and seek "scheduled" or "unscheduled" maintenance because the Air Force culture promotes it.

In various forums, I often discuss the meaning behind the design of the Air Force symbol. It says a lot about our culture. As I talk about the upper half, the stylized wings, I describe what they truly represent, the stripes of the enlisted force drawn with great angularity to emphasize swiftness and power; however, I also add that I believe the wings represent open arms. The loving, open arms of our Air Force that devotes much of its time, energy and resources to ensure our Airmen and their families can safely operate in all dimensions of human wellness.

So welcome aboard and thanks for flying with the Air Force. Your comfort and safety is extremely important to us. On this flight, you'll find that there's no need to have a battle with your life's baggage. The in-flight service includes a smorgasbord of resources for you and your family to take advantage of at no charge. Consider all the resources as a complimentary blanket, and wrap that blanket around you and the people seated closest to you.

Bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force, and take care of each other in all your actions.