Putting our challenges in perspective

  • Published
  • By Col. Roger Thrasher
  • 47th Mission Support Group commander
Lack of money in a time of war, inadequate facilities, steadily dwindling manpower, increased belt-tightening... these terms are familiar to Air Force personnel as we cope with force shaping, reductions in force, and budget cuts - all while fighting a long war on terrorism. There's no doubt we face many challenges as we strive to operate and sustain the world's greatest air, space and cyberspace force. But when I wrote the opening sentence in this article, I wasn't thinking about our current challenges. Instead, I was thinking about the difficulties that faced Gen. George Washington - whose birthday we celebrate this week - as he led the Continental Army at Valley Forge.

General Washington led 12,000 men into Valley Forge in December of 1777. During that winter, over 3,000 men deserted and more than 2,000 souls perished due to illness and disease. Somehow our manpower reductions pale in comparison. His troops were housed in ramshackle huts and had few shoes or blankets. Somehow reduction of custodial services and loss of towels at the fitness center don't seem as important. The Continental Army was fed on "firewater" - a fried combination of flour and water. Somehow the prices and selection at our commissary seem just fine.

Despite all these challenges, the Continental Army survived and even thrived over that long winter. The men's dedication to the cause of freeing themselves from British tyranny hardened their spirits. Leaders such as General Washington, Baron Von Steuben, the Marquis de Lafayette and Gen. Nathanael Green brought discipline and training to the troops. And in the spring of 1778, the Continental Army emerged ready to continue the long fight for independence.

Today, we carry the heritage of the Continental Army as we meet and adapt to our modern day challenges. We must remember that no matter how much force shaping we do or budget reductions we take, our nation is counting on us to fight and prevail just as General Washington and his army fought and prevailed. Personally, I have no worries about how well the Air Force will fare in these difficult times. When I look into the eyes of Airmen, I see the same fire and spirit that must have blazed in the eyes of the Continental Army - which makes me proud to serve with Airmen in a time of war.