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Commentary: The value of inclusion

I gained a renewed value for a culture of acceptance this summer by joining my unit’s softball team in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Not having played much baseball in my life, I decided to play with the Air National Guard I.G. Brown Training and Education Center’s “Notorious TEC” when the captain, Sergeant Smyser, told me it was just for fun and that the team was not overly serious.

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Commentary: Why we should sing a loud service song

The playing of The U.S. Air Force song is one of the few moments we have to sing out with gusto for the service. In basic training, we sang loud in cadence, not only to keep in step but with a feeling of teamwork that the Airman next to us bellowed out “Mama, Mama, Can’t You See” or “Everywhere We Go.” A squeaky or off-key voice was of little attention. The mindset was to build confidence, so the louder we sounded off in rhythm, the better the formation looked.

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Commentary: A paddler’s approach to teamwork

Just before 9/11, my father asked me along on a grand canoe trip to the Boundary Waters with his Hudson-valley paddling friends. We’d drive from Schenectady in upstate New York to Ely in upstate Minnesota to spend a week exploring that maze of placid waterways in the vast wilderness area between the United States and Canada.

My dad had his one-person canoe, but his friend, Joe Nicolella, needed a tandem canoe partner.

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Commentary: ..it happens

They say mistakes happen as a part of life; they’re not preventable.

That was part of my planned response for an interview this week for a promotion board. And the particular question was among a dozen others that I had reviewed in preparation: Give an example of a mistake you made and how you overcame it.

I’m certainly not short of personal examples as a photojournalist. I’ve messed up pretty well throughout my 21 years of military service.

I’ve shown up at the wrong place for a photo assignment as well as arrived without a battery in my camera. Misspelled the name of a senior military leader? Yup. And I’ve heaped on countless typos, grammar errors, and just … moments of utter disappointment.

But I don’t let mistakes stop me. Thanks, in part, to good leaders.

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Commentary: Season’s hazards lie in wait

A melted, blackened, multi-plug surge extension is an excellent example of the unintentional situations going on in our offices and homes regarding the fall and winter safety mindset – or not-mindset – to show how overlooked hazards arrive with the seasons.

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Commentary: The best, worst selfie

Whenever new students come to the Air National Guard’s training and education center in East Tennessee (very often), I hear faculty and leadership talking with them about dos and don’ts while on campus. They want to set expectations, they want newcomers to be successful, and they want them to get the most out of their experience. I have a role as a public affairs briefer, despite not teaching anything in the classroom. How will their stories unfold here? How will their actions in the community and with their cell phone cameras and social media while TDY become something more to me than a potential career-ending, wrong decision?

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Commentary: Let your innovation be known

The news drew excitement and pride from many in the Air Force last month, an announcement of finalists in the Spark Tank competition that collects innovative ideas from the Air Force major commands and selects the best at the headquarters level.

There were promotional videos on each idea, there was improving old processes with new technology, and there was improving new technology with old know-how, and amid the plans, there was a prevailing sentiment to strengthen our total Air Force.

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Commentary: Old Glory raised, then lowered

If you visited the Air National Guard’s training center here in East Tennessee this week coming from any other U.S. active duty, National Guard or Reserve military installation, there you would find the same American flag, at half-staff.

The President and the governors can order the flag flown half-staff through the U.S. Flag Code in memorialization. This time, flags were raised to their peak, then lowered to halfway in honor of those victims of murder and assault in Las Vegas.

“Our Nation is heartbroken,” proclaimed President Donald Trump, in his notice for the American flag to fly half-staff, Oct. 2 to Oct. 6. Meaning, a week of reflection before the Columbus Day weekend. “As we grieve, we pray that God may provide comfort and relief to all those suffering.”

These past years, I’d instead not recall how often I’ve walked across the base in the morning to see “Old Glory” flying below its peak to honor Americans under tragic events. It’s too often.

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Commentary: Anticipate this to help, for any disaster

Disasters don’t plan ahead. You can. The official logo for National Preparedness Month 2017. (Photo illustration by Ready.gov.)

Why check your emergency information? September is National Preparedness Month. Americans know natural disasters, if not from personal experiences, then through others’. Anticipating a disaster helps ensure our preparedness.

I’ll share my first memory, of Tropical Storm Carrie in 1972. I was four. I don’t recall much except that we had a gas stove and my mom popped corn in the dark while the thunder boomed outside. (I realize that this is small in comparison to disasters others faced, but it was pretty scary. So it must be for the kids in Houston.)

As Hurricane Harvey reminds us, while our memories fade, events may spring unrealized, anywhere and anytime. All severe weather can cause significant damage and risk of life. The need for proper emergency planning is critical in response. So if you’re with me, this might be our fair warning to recheck our records and plans for ourselves, family and friends.

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Commentary: Airport name honors Guard general’s son, who enlisted into Great War 100 years ago

(Image: A Curtiss H-16 patrol seaplane on a reconnaissance flight from U.S. Naval Air Station, Killingholm, England, Nov. 06, 1918. Photo courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command.)

MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn. – This July, 100 years ago, Charles McGhee Tyson, a Princeton University Graduate and a successful textile businessman in Knoxville, Tenn., enlisted as a seaman, second class, into the U.S. Naval Reserve Flying Corps. His service and sacrifice in the Great War would make him one of the area’s more memorialized service members.

Those who ever served at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base or flew into McGhee Tyson Airport probably know the name, but some are not aware of the man and the family behind it.