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Proud parents
Bob and Kris Wiltse pin on the rank of colonel to their daughter Gretchen M. Wiltse May 13 during a promotion ceremony at the Air Mobility Command Museum. Colonel Wiltse is the 512th Mission Support Group commander. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Marnee A.C. Losurdo)
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Posted 9/28/2012   Updated 9/28/2012 Email story   Print story


by Col. Gretchen M. Wiltse
512th MSG commander

9/28/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del.  -- I had an interesting conversation with a friend last night. We talked about our careers, what our next assignments might be, how far we've come, and our families. We are both colonels in the military, yet neither of us set out to be a colonel. We both have successful careers and also have successful children.

Through the course of the talk, one thing became clear: When you take care of the people right in front of you every day, the long term takes care of itself.

We both took care of our careers, in that we went where we were asked, although we both also worked with our leadership to be places we could be successful parents too. We both spent several years as single military parents, balancing the role of parent, cheerleader, disciplinarian and teacher for our children with the role of leader, problem solver, mentor and standard enforcer for our Airmen and Soldiers. It's amazing how many of those roles overlap.

Each of us thought the role of squadron and company commander and the rank of lieutenant colonel was our destiny. It seemed like an achievable milestone when we were young lieutenants.

We did the right things, learned from our great cadre of NCOs and senior NCOs, tried to make a difference, got to know our folks on a personal level, and slowly climbed the ladder until we were sitting in the seats we had dreamed about long ago.

The key to each of our successes, I think, was while we ticked the required boxes, neither of us really clamored for those roles. We worked hard, had fun and took care of our folks every day. When the time came for us to meet boards, our records showed we took care of our people. In turn, our people took care of us.

I have asked Airmen what their career goals are and have heard, "I want to be a command chief or I want to be a general" on several occasions. While setting high but attainable goals is commendable, I don't ever remember saying anything like that. Neither does my friend. We both said things like, "I want to do the best job I can while I'm here, and we'll see what happens next." Neither of us has been disappointed.

We have gone to interesting places, met great people, worked hard, learned a lot and had fun along the way. My point is while each of us had a rough sketch for our life plan, we also took the jobs and locations given to us by Uncle Sam and made the most of every one. We learned about our people, did our best to make their talents shine and never worried about what was next. Neither of us has been disappointed.

The sign on my desk says, "Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely, in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming 'Wow! What a ride!'"

Don't spend too much time with your eye on the endpoint of your life path. Enjoy the ride along the way; you might be surprised by the result.

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