Don’t blink

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Burke
  • 21st Medical Group commander
Greetings fellow Knights! For you music fans out there, the lyrics and insight behind Kenny Chesney's song, "Don't Blink" was my inspiration in writing this commentary -- I've even borrowed a few of his words to help me tie it together.

As my three-year tenure at the helm of your 21st Medical Group winds down and I near retirement this year, my friends in public affairs suggested that this one be in the form of a farewell. So, here you go -- and I promise I won't drift into the land of self-indulgence! "Trust me friend, a hundred years (well, three anyway) goes faster than you think."

As I approach the end of my tour at Peterson, I'm reminded of all the life-changing moments we've been through together -- the maelstroms we've weathered, successes we've shared and tough times we've persevered. Teammate losses, mission changes, natural disasters and inspections all come to mind. No matter how you dissect it, I believe we've succeeded as a team because we have an innate sense that drives us to take care of each other and because we're grounded by unwavering core values that resonate in all we do. And it's because of this I'll forever rest-assured that our great military, in whatever fashion necessary, is taking care of business.

In a previous commentary, I shared a somewhat different perspective of our core values that I learned from a previous boss, mentor and friend -- the ABC's of the core values. I believe it hits the mark and will again share this with you. I will take this with me wherever the road leads.

The "A" is linked with "Integrity" and is short for "Absolute." Bottom Line: Integrity is an Absolute. The "B" is linked with "Service Before Self" and is short for "Balance." We all know that the needs of the Air Force are the priority but we must keep in mind that Balance is also critical for resiliency, well-developed staff and healthy energy requisite to take on the challenges of mission and life in general. Finally, the "C" is linked with "Excellence in All We Do" and is short for "Challenge." Only a few by definition will ever reach true "excellence"...we'll nail true "excellence" when we must and meet the "Challenge." But, let's reserve the pursuit of "Excellence" for those matters that really count and not zap our energies on the inconsequential so we can focus on the important things. "Cause when your hourglass runs out of sand you can't flip it over and start again."

"Best start putting first things first":
If there was one thing I wish I had done better along the way, I would have had better balance between work and family. Sounds easy and most of us promise to do such every year as part of our resolutions. But, I sure could have done better. I'm fortunate to have young kids to harass around the house for years to come and thank goodness a loving and forgiving wife. As such, in retirement, balance will be much easier and a true priority. Please don't overlook balance as you're striving for Service Before Self as you will ultimately serve much better as a balanced Airman.

Before I close, I want to send out a huge thanks to all people I've worked with and to all of our patients who entrusted the 21st Medical Group with their care -- you've made this assignment my most memorable and the perfect one from which to say "tally-ho"! I'd like to especially recognize my chief, Sherri Olson -- a true leader to the bone who always puts her people first regardless what's on her plate. My Chief "O" is without question a true hard-working, grit-n-guts leader; a brown-shoe with new-age tendencies; a non-Dallas fan (which I forgave); a fair and engaged leader with clear gitty-up in her step and definitely an Uber Chief! Thanks for keeping me grounded, on-target and smiling -- and for being the best confidante a commander could ever ask for! Congratulations to you as you too take the plunge to retirement.

I look forward to seeing you all one last time before I depart and wish you well in your endeavors. I hope more than anything you find some time for that personal balance as Kenny reminds us, "Don't goes faster than you think."