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Better life through priorities

By Col. Thaddeus Phillips 2nd Dental Squadron Commander

Life is about decisions, forks in the road with endless possibilities. Here is a piece of advice courtesy of retired Air Force Col. Dennis Stuckey, D.C. "You have to have priorities. First is your God, second is your family and third is the Air Force. As long as you make decisions in keeping with these priorities (in that order) then everything will turn out fine." Throughout my 18-year career, I have found his sage advice true, but let me help you a little more with what's implied in those words.

First, choose your god well. Everyone assumes a deity of some sort by their actions. If you serve money, then all your efforts will be channeled towards increasing your monetary net worth. The cost of friends and family will be worth the sacrifice of a high banking balance. It is a choice, but is it the reward you want? Choose your god well, keep it within the confines of integrity, service before self and excellence in all you do. Those core values will carry you through the Air Force and beyond.

Second choose your family. In the long run they are there before your Air Force career, through your career and after your career. What this means to your day-to-day work is this: You need to provide for your family. Job performance and work must be balanced. Staying with your family when you are expected to work, puts your means to provide for your family in jeopardy. Also, it is not in keeping with the core values. The opposite is true as well. Staying at work when you should be with family is just as bad. It is not evident to your work immediately, but it is when you need time off for marriage or relationship counseling, or worse, divorce proceedings. Strike the balance of great job performance (excellence) but not at the expense of your family.

Third, choose the Air Force (or your career) after G0.od and family. The Air Force is full of opportunities for education and travel. It can give you the means to follow your dreams while surrounding yourself with others who aspire to be leaders. Take advantage of the offerings the Air Force presents you through college credits for your job training or the chance of an overseas living experience which will broaden your understanding of people from other cultures. Take advantage of the friends you make in the Air Force because they are the pillars of the world's best flying force. They are some of the best people you will ever meet throughout your life.

Bear in mind that if a choice arises where your Air Force career is trumped by your god or the needs of your family, then fulfill your service commitment with excellence, and then do what is dictated by your priorities. The nation and your community will be thankful for your service.

When I hear of anyone getting out of the military I ask, "What is your plan for afterwards?" In general, those with the best plans have thought through their priorities and made a decision in line with God, family and the Air Force. I trust you will also find it true.

Stuckey is currently the Air Force consultant for dental digital radiology.