'Extreme Honesty'

  • Published
  • By Col. Chris Crawford
  • 21st Space Wing commander
Humans have always appreciated honesty, in my opinion. We often outperform expectations or what logically "should" happen, just because we appreciate the truth, no matter how ugly. It's nice to have full disclosure of what you are getting yourself into. As a commander, I am sometimes privy to high-level discussions involving strategies of the Air Force and where we are headed. I try to encapsulate that information in a way that is applicable to you as wing members and base patrons to keep you informed, because I know how important it is to be kept in the loop and told the truth, plain and simple.

I've found through my 24 plus years as an Air Force officer that telling people the truth goes a long way, even if the outlook is bleak. Always telling people the truth gains trust and trust is powerful and valuable. It cannot be demanded, and once lost is difficult to recapture. As we head into a formidable future, know this: I will always be honest with you, no matter how dire the situation. If you ask a question at a town hall meeting or a commander's call, I will always answer the question to the best of my knowledge, stating whatever caveats are needed, such as "as of right now" or "based on what we know." I've seen what sugar-coating the facts can do to the team. Cynicism and bitterness take hold when you're told one thing but see another. Consider the following (true) tale.

In December 1914, English adventurer Ernest Shackleton set out to explore the Antarctic and cross the most southern tip of the earth for the first time. He would travel 1,700 miles from Weddell Sea below South America and then across the pole to the Ross Sea, below New Zealand. The crew set out on December 5, but within days, the crew and ship were trapped by packed ice from an early winter setting in. For ten months, the ship drifted with the icebergs until the ice pressure finally crushed her. Endurance eventually sank in the Weddell Sea, leaving the 28-man crew stranded in the Antarctic. They boarded three lifeboats and drifted with a strong clockwise circulating wind and tide, taking them into desolate waters. They landed on the bleak and uninhabited Elephant Island in the Southern Ocean, where Shackleton left 22 of his men behind and travelled 800 miles of rough seas to find help. The crew survived for four months on seal and penguin meat until Shackleton returned with help from the Chilean Navy.

Through the entire ordeal, not one person died from Shackleton's crew. How would you gather such a seaworthy, hardy team of men to endure such an ordeal? Perhaps Shackleton recruited lumberjacks, pirates, or even the most educated seamen he could find.

Think again.

Instead, to recruit his team Shackleton's ad in the London Times went like this:

"Men needed for Hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success."

Shackleton was honest in his recruitment, some might even have said to a fault. As a result, however, more than 5,000 brave souls applied and his final 28-member crew knew what to expect. They had the same driving desire as their leader: to do something great despite the odds.

So here's some honesty: 2013 is going to be a turbulent year financially in the 21st Space Wing ... "Expect last minute changes, realignments and stressful decisions. Some risk involved. Honour and recognition in case of success."

Consider if you would join the 21st Space Wing's expedition with this ad. As the Endurance crew was aptly named, a firmly knit crew can push through and endure, knowing what to expect and what it will cost. As a team moving forward with one purpose - to exist as America's most innovative and disciplined space wing and as leaders globally postured to dominate our high ground - we too can live on "seal and penguin meat." Let's link arms and move forward in defense of our nation together.