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NEWS | June 16, 2015

Excellence in all we do; at home and at work

By Lt. Col. Luis Otero 628th Medical Operations Squadron commander

While trying to decide which topic to discuss as a commander, I thought about subjects my squadron deals with including: suicide, substance abuse and DUIs.  However, I realized I am very excited about being a new parent. The new responsibilities of parenthood challenge me to think about myself with regards to our Air Force core values.  In particular, our third core value challenges us to be excellent in all we do.

Many of us look at parenthood with hope, excitement and anticipation.  We are told how exciting it will be and how much it will change our lives.  We are also told to expect sleepless nights and feeling tired all the time.  In my medical training days, I would sometimes work 100 hour weeks, so I thought I knew what I could expect with having a child.  I was wrong!  I'm sure many of you who are parents are chuckling about my naiveté but, as much as I thought I was prepared, nothing could really prepare me for the actual experience.

Not wanting day care, we thought we had it all planned out.  My husband would take the first two weeks to care for our daughter Cecilia and I would take leave the following two weeks; then we would each take off part of the week so we could spend time with her.  This would get us to the end of the school year, when my husband, who is a public school teacher, could stay with her full-time.  I figured I would be able to keep up with some of the demands of work, even while I was home with our beloved Cecilia.

You are probably wondering how this ties in to our core value, "Excellence in All We Do."  Most people who know me are aware I have very high expectations of myself, my colleagues and my squadron members.  Cecilia's myriad of demands, including the reality of a feeding schedule every 3 hours, crystallized the realization that I was operating at a level of less than excellence when it came to my work demands.  Also, by taking on demands at work, I was not providing excellent care to my daughter.

So, how did I resolve this conflict and what do I mean when I say I was not being excellent in all I did?  My job as a squadron commander demands I ensure my unit is ready to meet its mission. This includes ensuring my people are well equipped with resources and training.  I left my squadron in the capable hands of my deputy commander, who has shown excellence from day one.  Making certain she had the experiences and resources (access to me when she was unsure) were my principal concern.  I also clearly communicated to my group commander my plan for taking care of my family, making certain she was on board with my plan and the time away from work.

All of us have personal expectations and can sometimes find reaching those expectations very challenging.  We can respond by trying to improve ourselves or, just as valuable, turn to a Wingman or mentor and ask whether our expectations are realistic.  In my case, I had set the unrealistic expectation of myself that I could take care of my child full-time and accomplish everything I usually did at work.  By examining what my mission as a commander actually was I found that I already taken the necessary steps to ensure the mission was being accomplished.  I left the workplace in capable hands and communicated my needs to my supervisor.

The Air Force demands a lot from us and our families.  There are real sacrifices to be made in how we conduct our home lives, especially compared to many of our civilian counterparts.  Being honest about those sacrifices and communicating our priorities to our loved ones, supervisors and coworkers is one of the best ways I see we can ensure to continue to be excellent in all we do.  The first step in excellence is an honest assessment of what you can and should do