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Perseverance counts, so stick with it

LAUGHLIN AFB, TEXAS -- When I was a kid, I loved Saturday mornings. I would fix myself a big Jethro Bodine-sized bowl of cereal, pour as much sugar on it as possible, and sit down in front of the TV to watch cartoons. One of the cartoons I loved to watch was "The Adventures of Gulliver." The plot of "Gulliver" was the son of the Gulliver in the Swift book was trying to find his father with the aid of several Lilliputians.

Today, most of my memories of that show have faded. What I remember most is there was one character named Glum. Whenever the crew of heroes got in trouble and came up with a brilliant yet desperate plan to save their necks, Glum would pipe up, "It'll never work! We're all gonna die!"

I have known a few Glum's in my day, and I am sure you have, too. But, what is the effect of having either a positive or negative attitude?

A friend of mine, Dr. Josh Tomchesson, is an Air Force psychologist currently doing rounds in the San Antonio area. Part of Josh's duties includes counseling BMT recruits who are having troubles adjusting to the demands of BMT. In Josh's experience, there are three determinants as to whether someone will be able to make it through BMT: a medical condition which either develops or becomes apparent at BMT; a mental health problem; or, most importantly, the attitude the recruit has towards their situation. Not everything, including BMT, lasts forever. If the recruits can see themselves getting through the tough times and graduating, they most likely will.

Air Force folks are pre-screened. If you can get in, you will most likely make it through your training. There are some things you can not control, but the biggest determinant to your success is your attitude. Are you willing to keep moving towards your goal regardless of difficulties you can see ahead and the unpleasant surprises you may get? Perseverance counts.

I can personally vouch for this. After I graduated from Undergraduate Navigator Training I went to Castle Air Force Base to learn how to be a navigator in a B-52. A couple of weeks after I started I came down with a bad case of a horrible disease (OK, it was mononucleosis). For those of you who have not had the pleasure, mono almost completely saps your strength for months. This presented a problem for my instructors. Their less than gentle solution was to inform me they did not like scheduling problems and would eliminate me from the program rather than putting me in a later class.

I had a very stark choice: lose my flying career or do whatever I could to overcome. The choice, for me, was easy - I would continue to fly. But, the path ahead was decidedly not easy. My flight surgeon regularly "counseled" me I needed to be sleeping sixteen hours a day, not working 16 hours a day trying to catch up. I persevered, paying a very high price to keep flying, but I graduated with my class. There was no way I could have done that with a poor attitude.

It is not necessary to have all the answers in the beginning. The challenges we face may require a great deal of flexibility. What is not flexible is the necessity of action: take that first step, then the next, and keep going. Have the attitude that you will adapt, you will improvise and so you will overcome.

As individuals, check your attitude. Remember that, as Airmen, you have been pre-screened, selected and trained. You have already overcome many things to get where you are - you have the intelligence, fortitude and resources to handle whatever difficulties come your way. Do you project that positive attitude, or are you a Glum?

As leaders, check the attitudes of your Airmen. Try to help them improve their attitudes. Success breeds success, and failure breeds failure, so try to set up your Airmen for success. Work what is possible first to get some success under their belts; that should help improve their attitudes. Then, together, you can begin to work on the impossible.