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Laughlin’s Elephant

Chief Master Sgt. Jodi Epps, 47th Operations Group superintendent, removes the blindfold to reveal the whole mission through the analogy of an elephant. Epps emphasizes the importance of everyone’s part in the mission at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, even if it isn’t clear what that part may be. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anne McCready)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Many years ago several people were blindfolded and taken to the same location, their hands were placed on the same item. They were asked to identify what the item was. Each of them, based on their perspective, described a different item. One described touching a tree trunk, one described a wall, one a rope and another a snake. Remember, each was touching the same item.

Our perspective is skewed based on what is in front of us. When these people took their blindfolds off to see what was in front of them, they all saw the same elephant.

Let’s consider this elephant as our mission: each of us have our hands on a section of it. We are all responsible for a specific aspect of the mission, none are any less important than the other, but we are all taking care of the same elephant. All members of Team XL have the same goal in mind, we are all striving to achieve the same end result even though day-to-day we do slightly different tasks. I need us all to take off the blindfolds and take a new look at what is around us. Realize how large the mission is and how vital your individual role is in keeping the mission going.

Continuing with the elephant analogy, imagine if the person responsible for the leg begins to slack off because they are dealing with personal issues or they get injured so they are not able to take proper care of the elephant’s toes. Anytime a member of our family is not able to do their job there will be an impact on the mission. The impact could be catastrophic failure of that aspect of the elephant. How hard is it for an elephant to walk on three legs?  But the folks taking care of the trunk and the tail have an equally important role to play in the success of the operation of the elephant. Without each of us doing our job things go wrong. Do your job!

There is one specific aspect I would like us all to focus on with regard to mission accomplishment, and that is family. In many cases we spend more time with our coworkers than our own family. That should result in us treating each other like family because that is what we are. We are Laughlin and we are a family. We need to pay close enough attention to our coworkers that we are aware of times they are in need of a wingman to support them through a hard day or a difficult situation. When they are in need, be there for them.

Most of us can agree that the best way to spend any holiday is with family. When you are home for Thanksgiving and everyone is gathered around the table you are there to enjoy their company and you treat each other with dignity and respect.

Team XL is fantastic at treating each other with dignity and respect. Time and time again I have witnessed my Team XL family in the act of being great wingmen, you support each other, and you do treat each other with dignity and respect. Remember the elephant’s leg, someone has to take care of it or we risk catastrophic failure. Do not be the cause of a family member being taken off the job. Be a loyal and devoted family member. Continue to look out for each other to ensure we are all able to stay focused on the elephant in front of us. 

As my time at Laughlin comes to an end I reflect back on my 20 months here with a great deal of pride. Throughout my time here, I’ve seen so many Laughlin students arrive, grow and eventually graduate. I’ve seen the amazing work our family accomplishes in order to ensure Laughlin Air Force Base continues to graduate the world’s greatest military pilots. It is my honor to have been a part of that.

Stay encouraged, take care of one another, take the blindfold off and take care of Laughlin’s elephant!