Finding balance in the northern tier

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Justin McMillian
  • 12th Missile Squadron Commander
I'm extremely blessed and fortunate to have been given the opportunity to lead the best team this side of anywhere - the Red Dawgs of the 12th Missile Squadron.  I may be a bit biased, but I truly believe it.  The 12th MS is just one of the many squadrons that make up our proud missile wing.  Our mission may not be glamorous, but it is a vital component of global strategic deterrence and escalation control.  The daily life at a missile base and the tasks needed to accomplish our unique mission, though, can be quite challenging.  I have found that a blend of balance and perspective helps to overcome life's challenges, and enables us to perform at our best even in the toughest of situations.

Life in the intercontinental ballistic missile community is often repetitive and filled with uncertainty.  One of the biggest challenges we face is providing 24/7/365 strategic nuclear deterrence, which just so happens to reside under a giant microscope.  Seems pretty stress free right?  Well, as we all know, it's not.

This continuous pressure placed on our young officer and enlisted corps to perform with precision is enormous.  Yet, our Airmen do it day in and day out, without hesitation or question, and do it extremely well.  The challenge we all face is sustaining that high level of performance while managing all the other tasks our personal and Air Force lives demand.  And we don't just want to cope; we want to thrive and succeed. 

There is no cookie cutter recipe for successfully traversing the challenging landscape set before us every day.  The days often seem to get longer.  The nights with the family seem to get shorter.  The days in between alert duties, tours and maintenance shifts are fewer, and the days chasing off-alerts or security situations begin to blur together.  Before you know it, you're on your second assignment, transitioning to civilian life or just sitting there wondering what happened.  Thus, we each need to find balance in our daily lives.  This balance allows us to effectively manage our daily routines by enabling us to let off steam at the gym, grab a fishing pole and head to the nearest river for some quiet time, or just spend some quality time with family or friends.  By finding and maintaining our individual balance points, we ensure that no one aspect of our lives (work, work and, oh yeah, more work) completely consumes the others. 

We also need to keep things in perspective. Perspective is something that comes from experience, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, and keeping an eye on the "big picture."  We often lose sight of these things as we continuously focus on our specific mission sets.  Yet, we all need to understand the big picture and just how important we all are to the mission.  But it's also important to remember that we are human and will continue to make mistakes.  We need to focus on being the best that we can be without compromising who we are as individuals.  Excellence, not perfection, is the standard.  To maintain levels of excellence, we must practice our core values, work hard and take care of our people.  Our mission is absolutely critical, but without people there is no mission.  We need to take care of ourselves and our teammates.   

Missiles will never be glamorous, but I'm extremely proud to be part of this team, and you should be proud as well.  You are all members of an ICBM team charged with providing global nuclear deterrence for the American people and our allies.  That responsibility is immense, but none do it better!