What does 'People first, mission always' really mean?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mark Thompson
  • 366th Operations Support Squadron
People first, mission always.

You've heard it before, but do you know what it means?

As warriors in the U.S. military, the requirement to defend our national interests will lead many of you to be away from your friends, families and loved ones, often for months at a time.

At some point, you will most likely be asked to make these types of sacrifices. I personally recall being deployed or on temporary duty for more than two-and-a-half years of the first four years of my children's lives. That was not easy, as I missed some of their very formative years.

However, this separation was made more bearable because I knew my Air Force family was there to support my family. I was able to focus on accomplishing the mission -- no matter where I was or what I was doing -- because I knew there was a support network within the squadron and the wing to ensure my family was looked after and their needs were taken care of. That is what putting people first means -- taking care of Airmen and their families, so they can accomplish the mission. If the people who accomplish the mission are worried about their families, they can't focus on the mission. If there is no support network, there is no mission accomplishment.

The Secretary of the Air Force, along with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, decreed July 2009 to July 2010 as the "Year of the Air Force Family." This decree is not meant as just another catchy slogan, but rather it's meant to help bring our focus back to ensuring we take care of our Airmen and those who support them. It's meant to help ensure each individual's priorities are in order. It's meant as a realization that the individual family is part of the bigger Air Force family, whether single Airmen, spouses or children, and we need to remember to bring back the feeling of community in caring for each other.

I think the holidays are a perfect opportunity to take the time to reflect on these points, to focus, and to ponder our own personal and professional support networks.

People first, mission always. If you take care of yourself and your family, you can focus on accomplishing the mission. It's that simple.