Families the reason we Rock the mission

Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. -- Last week I had the honor of attending the Air Education and Training Command commander's and chief's conference. Events such as these give leaders a chance to hear about issues affecting Airmen throughout AETC and the Air Force. We are able to share ideas on what we're doing right and find new ways to improve our mission processes and quality of life at our home bases.

Gen. William Looney III, commander of AETC, stressed time and again during this conference the great job our Airmen are doing on a daily basis. Both he and I are very aware of the demands placed on you every day to accomplish the mission - many times with less manning and resources than ever. And day after day, you step up to meet those challenges, developing new ways to do your piece smarter, safer and better.

But those demands don't stop at work. They carry over into our home lives as well. While we're being asked to do more at work, we're also asking our families to do more at home. Longer and more frequent deployments, exercises and longer work shifts mean we're often away more than we're home. And when we're gone, the mission on the home front does not stop. Our children still need doctor's and dentist's appointment, the lawn still needs to be mowed, the car still needs to be serviced and our pets still need to be tended to.

The pride General Looney has in our Airmen doesn't stop with those in uniform. It extends to all of you who take care of us so we can take care of our nation. For all those families who set an extra place at the table on Thanksgiving so an Airman celebrating his first holiday away from home can feel welcome, we thank you. For the nondeployed staff sergeant who stops off at his neighbor's house to check on a family and lend a hand while the sponsor is away, we thank you. For every parent who makes time to read to a child at a school on base because that first grader's mommy or daddy is deployed, you will forever have our gratitude.

There are spouses' groups who band together to take care of each other throughout the year. These are the people who lend a hand to new families and help them get adjusted to life on the Rock. And we couldn't do it without them. For every wife facing her new husband's first deployment is a wife who has been through it 10 times and always graciously offers to show her the ropes. For every child who is sad because her mommy missed her school play there is another who will invite her to play and let her know it's going to be okay.

The teamwork spirit we demonstrate at work doesn't stay at work. Our Little Rock families epitomize this spirit. We can all learn a little something from the ones at home who keep the fires burning and the wheels turning. Without them, we would not be the successful Air Force we are today.

My wife Kim and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are proud to serve with you. Combat Airlift!