Before Tuesday, February 21st 2012, I’d never met a Global Strike Command Airman. By 7:00pm Friday of that week, Robi Powers (founder and inspiration behind the American300 Foundation and the Never Quit Resiliency Series) had knocked that deficiency in my life clean out of the ball park. Not only had I met and shaken hands with thousands of Airmen, NCOs and Officers but I’d also had the honor of meeting four of the Command’s Generals including being invited round for dinner with the ‘Old Man’ as Robi always puts it Friday night.
Although we’d chatted and emailed it wasn’t until I was in-route to Minot AFB that I met Robi Powers in person and received my final briefing. “Global Strike Command is the best of the best.” He told me. “The whole world looks up to the US Air Force and the rest of the services look up to Global Strike Command. These Airmen shoulder massive responsibility and nobody on planet Earth does it better!”
He went on to explain our mission is not to fix or instruct, but to connect and to energize; to give a pat on the back and reinforce winning behaviors. “This isn’t death by PowerPoint,” he explained “This is connecting to the human being inside each uniform. This is turning ourselves inside-out and paying it forward. From the time we go through the gates at Minot, Whitman and Barksdale you’re going to feel like you’re in a video game... your alarm will be going off at 4:00am and you probably won’t get your head down on the next AFB until midnight; so I hope you’re good at sleeping on aircraft.”
And so it was. Each group encounter was focused to the unique circumstances of those airmen and every presentation was different. It wasn’t always pretty, but what we lacked in polish we made up for in authenticity and passion. In all we visited more than 30 different locations at the first 3 bases and, I’m thinking, talked to some 3,000 airmen... and we only used the word resiliency 5 times!
I take a pride in my work-ethic, but in the 3 days I spent with Global Strike Command in Minot, Whitman and Barksdale I put out at least five times more Tom Whittaker than I thought I had to give. In part this was possible because of Robi’s infectious passion and ability to connect to each and every group of airmen we visited. In part it was due to Capt. Walden, our liaison officer and the senior NCO’s aka ‘Shirts‘ that steppedup to provide the planning and logistical support at each base and who worked tirelessly to keep the wheels on our wagon. But none of this would have been possible without the commitment and support of the senior leadership.
I am beyond impressed! To have your General’s and Colonels, Command Chiefs and First Sergeants prioritize time to attend “Never Quit” presentations speaks to a level of commitment for airmen’s wellbeing and says volumes about who they are and the health of this Command. You may have heard me talk about eagles and vultures. These men and women are truly eagles who walk the talk and model the behavior. There’s no doubt, if I had them on my first Everest expedition I wouldn’t have had to go back another two times... we’d have captured the summit then and there. Because, what they don’t know about mountaineering, they know about getting the very best out of their people; and you are the living proof of that!
The point I’m lumbering towards is that although the “Promise Tour” would not be possible without the buy-in and committed hard work all the way down the command structure ... they weren’t doing this for Robi and I; they were doing it for you. The men and women that are the life blood of Global Strike Command. The reason I discovered I was able to exceed my perceived capabilities on the tour, by at least a factor of 5, was proof that their commitment to you is justified.
I looked you in the eye and shook you by the hand. I felt your integrity, your purpose, your patriotism and your pride. As a result of having this opportunity I now know and understand that America is alive and well within you and because of you.
For all of the airmen who opened their hearts and minds to me and Robi; I thank you. It was that conduit of non-judgmental acceptance that validated and energized me. Finally, it is my hope that by thumb-printing the one special Promise Tour Challenge Coin (to be placed on the summit of Mount Everest this May) you will follow through with your commitment to reach for something that, as yet, is just outside your grasp and make it yours.
All Good Things,
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Program Note- Tom Whittaker and Robi will be visiting F.E. Warren and Malmstrom AFB's to finish off this first of many visits by American300 to our Global Strike Command Bases... While the special guests will change from month to month, Tom has agreed to volunteer his time and expertise as our senior advisor to the entire Never Quit Series - Thanks Tom!
To learn more about Tom Whittaker, please visit www.tomwhittaker.com
American300 is an All Volunteer 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.