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NEWS | May 27, 2014

The Company

By Lt. Col. Cassius Bentley 15th Airlift Squadron commander

In a recent LinkedIn article entitled "Career Curveballs: No Longer A Soldier," Gen. Stanley McChrystal describes how after 38 years in uniform, his identity as a soldier came to an abrupt end following the now infamous article in Rolling Stone magazine. The profoundness of McChrystal's words in the LinkedIn article is best articulated by reading the excerpt below.

"But years on the battlefield had taught me that soldiering is really about people. Weapons don't dig muddy foxholes - people do. War plans don't evacuate wounded comrades - people do. The Pentagon doesn't create the brotherhood of the Army - people do. What I'd learned, above all other lessons, was the importance of those you surround yourself with. That lesson would be with me forever, uniform or no uniform." Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Simply stated, our business at its core is the people we serve for and with in a unit.

I recently took command of the 15th Airlift Squadron "Global Eagles" this past April. Our mission is to provide air refueling, combat-ready C-17A aircrews for strategic airlift missions worldwide. At any given time, a C-17A could be shown on the news delivering humanitarian aid or combat power to the warfighter. But in reality, the people of "The Company" (another nickname for the 15th) or other equally capable squadrons do the delivering. Likewise, people create the brotherhood of the Air Force. As a commander, one of my roles is to strengthen that Air Force brotherhood ... the question is how?

During a 2012 Air Force Sergeants Association Convention and Professional Airmen's Conference, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, stated we should learn Airman's stories and he was "absolutely convinced that if we knew each other better, we would care for each other more."

In my short time in command, I have had some little league curve balls thrown my way, but on the horizon are some much tougher curve balls, such as the upcoming force management programs. In dealing with these issues, the best effort is to realize Airmen are neither numbers nor assets, but rather individual people with their own individual stories.

In the Company, we have some remarkable Airmen that have some equally remarkable stories. I don't have the space to tell all 161 stories, but would like to share a few. One airman, Maj. Brad Foster, trained both the Iraqi and Afghanistan air forces and has gained a unique perspective on the different cultures we deal with on the international stage.

Likewise, Master Sgt. Erin Manley trained the first two Afghanistan Instructor loadmasters in the C-27A. Their impact on the future of each country's air force is not fully known yet, but it should not be lost that they both left home for a year and were a face in our nation's diplomacy efforts.

The Company has a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient in 1st Lt. Kevin Summerbell, from a gun battle in Iraq when he served proudly with the U.S. Army.

We have Captain J.J. Leiber, whose brother was injured during an IED attack in Mosul, Iraq. The injury would have been fatal had it not been for the MRAP protection that was delivered by our people on a C-17A.

Every Airman does have a story. Although I focused only on military themes, the more important stories come from the home front and away from the flight line. And sometimes ... breaking down the standard barriers of protocol and communication might be necessary to hear those stories. By doing so, you could hear an incredible story or more crucial, you could identify and help a fellow Airman facing a daunting challenge.

In closing, make a daily effort to get away from your desk, iPhone, emails and office. Take time to walk around your work space and engage with your fellow Airman. You just might discover that you are serving with great "Company."