In the Old Days

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. David Mattson
  • 341st Missile Wing Chief of Command Post
"In the old days" is a phrase young military members often hear from us older or 'mature' military members. When I use the phrase, it is not intended to conjure up the memories of your grandfather who walked to school, uphill both ways, in 10 inches of snow; it is meant as an introduction to another member of a similar career field.
It is a phrase to pass information from experiences; and to help you, but mostly me, learn about current and on-going situations.

Throughout my career, I have more than my fair share of experiences in the missile world, and like many military officers, I like to tell a story ... or two. It was not until I returned to Malmstrom, (yes I came back, and I actually volunteered) that I realized my stories are not just experiences; they are detailed maps of past challenges and the directions used to overcome them.

Although most of my early learning experiences can be placed in the dictionary under, "how not to," I survived the initial learning phase of military life and decided to make the Air Force a career.

Over time, I started to value those early years. I needed to make some mistakes, not because I was not a good lieutenant, but because I was a lieutenant. If you do not make mistakes when you are young, you will never know how to handle yourself or those you lead when you are older. Through my own actions, and the actions of my supervisors, I saw and experienced leadership at its finest.

Through more than 20 years of service, I saw the good, the bad and the ugly. I saw things done right, things done wrong and things I cannot imagine were done at all. Regardless, it is the experience that develops the bonds with your peers and drives that all too familiar initial introduction to young military members of "in the old days."

As a mature man, I am very accustomed to passing on advice. Although my approach depends on the situation, I will not set you up for failure. I will sometimes make suggestions and present some helpful information to help you, but more often than not, I will provide a valuable input, relating to you one of my experiences, and it will always start with, (you guessed it), "in the old days."

Although, "in the old days" may make me seem all knowing, I do not have the answer to every problem. In fact, "in the old days" is a good explanation of why I am slow to learn and accept new technology. To help me relate to my trainer, who is most often younger, less experienced, and much smarter than I am, I inevitability started that conversation with "in the old days."

Explaining where I came from and what I have done explains a lot about what I am accustomed to. Although Malmstrom's mission has remained the same, the procedures and technology used to carry out our deterrent mission have changed drastically. The systems we use now to do what I did years ago, are interesting to me, but extremely different than they were "in the old days."

As I reflect on my stories and all my experiences, I want to thank all the officers and enlisted members, young and old, for their time and conversation. Your tolerance for my questions and relationship to the past has made a big difference in my understanding of the present.

I would not have the knowledge I have now if you did not take the time to educate me. I hope some of the old days have helped inform you about why things are the way they are. History is a great educator; if you do not study it, you will repeat it. So if you are up for a little education you may want to ask, "what did you do, in the old days?"