What's your Carthage?

  • Published
  • By Col. Mike Hough
  • 21st Space Wing vice commander
I admire dogged determination. The ability to see something through to completion, no matter how difficult, no matter how long it takes, is an admirable trait. History offers plenty of examples of individuals who demonstrate persistence, but my favorite is Marcus Porcius Cato, or Cato the Elder.

A senator of Rome, Cato's entire life, since his birth in 234 B.C. and until his death in 149 B.C., was punctuated by a series of wars with Carthage, a powerful city-state and empire located in modern day Tunisia. For Cato, Carthage represented an existential threat to Rome and his way of life. Cato knew the two empires couldn't coexist; Rome would never fully flourish until this distraction was eliminated; Carthage must be defeated in totality. Cato made it his life goal to ensure the Carthaginian threat stayed at the forefront of his fellow Roman's thoughts as well. In fact, no matter the topic of the speech he was giving in the forum, whether it be about foreign policy, taxation, or religious ceremony, no matter how exciting or mundane, Cato ended them all with the same words: "Cathargo delende est!" - "Carthage must be destroyed!"

As the Wing vice commander I see, better than I ever have in the past, the threats that face our Airmen and our Air Force. I would argue these deserve the same passionate response, the same level of persistency that Cato devoted to the threat that faced Rome. Now, let's not over-dramatize this - Rome sold the defeated population of Carthage into slavery and sowed salt into the ground to make sure no one could return. I'm not talking wholesale destruction. I'm referring to a change in mindset where threats to our Air Force way of life become absolutely unacceptable.

Think, for example, how damaging sexual assaults are. Think of what the victims go through and must endure for the rest of their lives; think of the time spent building a case and prosecuting the perpetrator; think of the damaged image of the Air Force and how the public loses faith every time a sexual assault case surfaces. Yes, sexual assaults are a threat to the Air Force and its people...and they must be destroyed!

Even though sexual assaults are one of the most visible and serious threats to the Air Force, they are not the only threat. How about illegal drug use? Driving under the influence? Thievery? Suicides? All of these are destructive in their own right; they erode the very fabric of the Air Force and distract us from accomplishing our day-to-day jobs (the mission). What about those dangers you deem threatening to you personally (from domestic assault to financial problems)? Dangers that aren't as visible as those previously mentioned. They too deserve the same level of attention and tenacious pursuit until defeated.

So, here's my challenge to you: identify the threats that need eradicating from our professional and personal lives and be persistent until destroyed. What's your Carthage?