Be grateful

  • Published
  • By Maj. Shawn “Happy” Green
  • 21st Space Wing


Happy New Year to the outstanding men and women of the 21st Space Wing and the Colorado Springs community!

Over the past four months, I had the privilege to serve as the commander of a forward deployed space squadron as part of a joint, coalition team at an austere location in Northern Syria. Our elite team of Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines continue to work by, with and through regional partners such as the Syrian Democratic Forces to militarily defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in support of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR).  I am forever grateful to serve my country alongside such an amazing team – it’s been the experience of a lifetime.  This holiday season, I’d like to share some personal stories with you to help your New Year be just that much more enjoyable.


When I began my career at Minot AFB in the ICBM community, I made the mistake of allowing my attitude get in the way of my happiness, performance and well-being. I played the helpless victim and instead of focusing my efforts on doing a good job and helping others, I blamed all of my problems on external factors – the career field, my friends, my family, the -40 degree weather, the assignment. However, I had the power to change this, as evidenced in this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”

One February day, I was driving across North Dakota with our basketball team to play against Grand Forks AFB and defend (translation: win) The Dakota Cup when I came across a huge billboard that simply said, “Be Grateful.”  One of my best friends had told me of this sign, so I pulled my truck to the side of the road, stared at it, and recounted why things had gotten so miserable. Legendary NCAA Coach John Wooden once said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” As soon as I decided to take control of my situation by changing my perspective, my life drastically improved.  In short, I decided to take ownership, hold myself accountable and lead. 

As I reflect on that moment, I realize that the change began with me. Bestselling author Simon Sinek shares, “Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank.”  Regardless of our age, rank, position or title, each of us has the choice to (or not to) lead each and every day through our personal example, attitude and commitment to others. I’ve encouraged leadership at every level within the units I’ve served and on Team Pete, leadership does not just sit with the Wing Staff; it has many faces.  It’s seen by the server at the Deployed Family Dinner. It’s seen by the gate guard who cheerfully says, “Welcome to Peterson Air Force Base” and checks your ID.  It’s seen by the spouse who pours their effort into the family and the children who help with chores around the house. It’s seen daily by countless professional Airmen, on and off base, on and off duty.

Our Air Force culture is unique and I cherish the fact that I serve alongside people who believe in the same core values. In Miguel Ruiz’ book, The Four Agreements, he encourages us to simply always do our best, similar to our core value of Excellence in All We Do. He states, “Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.” I agree, whole-heartedly.  

No matter where you may be or how you may celebrate this year’s New Year, I encourage you to make the best of it. Have fun. Tell stories. Celebrate in this moment and remember those who have passed. Text or call that old friend or family member that you miss—I promise you, they’ll love to hear from you.

Be grateful.



It’s my privilege and honor to serve as part of such a phenomenal team. Our joint team’s strength stems from its diversity, which offers a multitude of flexible warfighting capabilities and individuals with a very particular set of skills--skills which make us a nightmare for people like ISIS (Shout out to Liam Neeson in Taken!).  Our unshakeable coalition is comprised of people of all races, genders, upbringings, walks of life and backgrounds united under the unified OIR focus of “one mission, many nations.” It’s been gratifying to see the impact of our contributions as part of a greater cause, as the Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated the ISIS capital of Ar Raqqah.   

Within our unit, we possess a variety of backgrounds, varying levels of experience and a wide range of Air Force Specialty Codes to include operators, satellite communications/radio frequency technicians, aerospace ground equipment, cyber, engineers and security forces.  In today’s multi-domain battlespace, we represent the face of the modern-day space warfighter. We remain postured to deliver the fight, 24/7, and focus on disciplined operations, innovation, collaboration and integration so that our unique space situational awareness capabilities are effectively employed in support of theater operations.

Former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli once remarked, “The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his time when it comes.” In the space career field, the time is now.  Across the battle space, there is an increased reliance and dependency on space capabilities as part of the fight.  As many Knights undergo their advanced training cycles, I challenge them focus and get ready for the fight.  On deployment, I was fortunate to integrate with a Marine Corps Commander who used the following questions as part of his command philosophy, which apply to our team, as well: “Are you ready to deploy tomorrow? If not, what do you need to accomplish to get there?” Whatever it is, do it. 


“Being a warrior is not about the act of fighting. It’s about being so prepared to face a challenge and believing so strongly in the cause you are fighting for that you refuse to quit” ~ Richard ‘Mack’ Machowicz, Navy SEAL

More than ever, space is a warfighting domain. Our operations are in the fight and we are here to stay.  We play a vital role and we don’t merely support warfighters -- we perform operations as warfighters.  Thank you to all of those who participate in space operations; your role is vitally important.  Thank you for fighting against complacency and for staying mentally sharp with a warrior mindset, whether that’s in a deployed or home-station environment.


Thank you.  What you do matters and I’m humbled to serve alongside our Airmen.  I’m grateful to call my brothers and sisters in arms my Air Force Family and it’s comforting to know that I have such an outstanding support system. Thank you for leading one another, celebrating traditions, and starting new ones. 

I sincerely wish you a Happy New Year filled with laughter, good health, loving friends and family, and unforgettable memories.  As you reflect back on last year’s victories, challenges and key milestones, I wish you all the best in making each day better than the last.  Pay it forward. To those of you on shift working the holiday, thank you for keeping us safe.  Lastly, I wish you well in bracing the overwhelming surge of January gym-goers, unpredictable bowl games, Colorado winter driving conditions and unforeseen challenges that the upcoming year will bring.  Come back hungrier than ever to crush it in 2018.

I invite you to raise a glass and celebrate this holiday season with two words in mind– Be Grateful.