Building community

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Maj. Clay McGillivray, Detachment 3 commander, 23rd Space Operations Squadron. (Courtesy photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

“My shift is coming to an end and now I can finally go home.”

I can’t begin to count how many times I have thought this after a long day. I suspect I am not alone in my thinking.

Airmen around the world work hard on duty and then head to their relaxation place to recover for the next day. Maybe that place is with family or friends, with pets or even by yourself.

How each Airman prepares for the next day is unique to him or her, yet crucial for the renewed drive and energy the Air Force demands. My place is at home either dancing with my wife or wrestling with my boys.

Recently, I have recognized my off duty time rarely involves the people I work with, and it should.  

My off duty time should include spending time with the other Airmen from my unit, group and base. Over time, engaging with others will result in the creation of a community. Building a community will form relationships, bonds and allow everyone to be included. I am fortunate to currently be in a location where the Air Force community is strong. The base is literally locked in by frozen seas and glaciers, so the people here are all we’ve got. I get to work, eat, exercise and hangout with the same people on and off duty.

Some might assume being around the same people all the time would be a negative, but so far I have appreciated it all. That isn’t to say I am friends with everyone and everything is sunshine and roses. Through good times and bad, I relate this community to that of a large family which remains together through it all.

Within a family, you may have a protective mom, loyal brother, political dad, wise old grandmother and a crazy uncle, or two, or three. We are intimately familiar with who they are and what they add to the family. I would not necessarily ask my grandmother to watch a mixed martial arts fight; but go to dinner, yes.

My community is similar in that I understand how people are doing and what they do in their down time. The ones who love fitness outpace me in the gym and others will talk with me about the new “Walking Dead” episode.

While these interactions help me grow physically and mentally, they also allow us to connect to each other. It has helped me from a work aspect multiple times when I needed something quickly from another unit.

More importantly, the community enables me to know other people’s well-being. It has become remarkably easy to see changes in a person’s behavior. We all want to be good wingmen and there is no better way to see when someone has changed than by being involved.

The situation here is fairly unique in the Air Force, though I do want the community-feel regardless of my location. The same sentiment has been told to me by others who have had similar experiences while deployed or stationed at remote locations. Upon returning to stateside assignments, their connection to the community is not always as strong.

A former commander of mine understood the importance of community within our unit and he encouraged us to get together outside of work for the mentorship, companionship and establishment of those crucial bonds. After this assignment, I can value why he emphasized those get-togethers.

Now, my challenge is to have more than just work associates and do my part to strengthen our Air Force community no matter the assigned location.