Joiint Base Pearl Harboe-Hickam --
The first time I heard the word “ohana” was nearly two years ago as I was lucky enough to assume command of the 15th Wing. Part of the Hawaiian culture, ohana means family, and it is definitely a concept that comes in many forms.
Ohana can be your immediate family, your extended family, your work family, your community and many others. Regardless, in nearly every case, it is a group of individuals who come together to support each other in a common cause as part of a team.
Last week, I was lucky enough to witness this on three separate occasions.
The first was during a Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) mission to Vietnam, in which we had the honor of returning one of our own. Being part of the crew and witnessing their professionalism was something that I will not soon forget. As we were standing on the ramp behind our aircraft rendering honors to the remains of one of our Air Force family, we were all filled with an incredible sense of pride for our Service and our nation. No other country in the world goes to the extent that we do to bring back those that gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our great nation.
The second occasion was at the end of the week, where I had the privilege of attending the 5th BCD Dining Out. As one of only three Air Force members in attendance, our Army brethren went out of their way to make us really feel a part of the team…or their ohana. Although I’m sworn to secrecy on the contents of their grog, it was a fantastic experience being a part of such a rich tradition, with certain events paying homage to a history that extends as far back as the Revolutionary War. The fellowship was great and the bond between service members was tremendous. Numerous times throughout the evening, there was one phrase that was uttered reinforcing our common purpose - one team, one fight.
Finally, the 15th Wing is blessed to have the support of a group of civic leaders, known as the Friends of Hickam, who are dedicated to providing aid and assistance to Airmen stationed here in Hawaii. I have never witnessed a community that is so giving and so determined to helping our Airmen. They also really know how to have fun…something that, at times, in my opinion, we have gotten away from a little too much in the Air Force.
Over the weekend, a few of us and our families were lucky enough to be a part of a traditional luau complete with digging the imu and cooking the pig (and other things) in the ground in a tradition which started hundreds of years ago. It is a lot of work to cook like this, but roughly 16-17 hours later, when we pulled the pig out of the ground and the meat simply fell off the bone, it was all worth it!
This was not simply a dinner out at a restaurant, but an invitation for approximately 40 of our Air Force family members to be welcomed into someone’s home. Talk about feeling as though you were part of a family…I can think of no better way to be made to feel so welcome, and can never thank them enough for their support to our Wing and our Airmen.
It’s hard to believe it has been nearly two years since given the reins of the greatest Wing in the Air Force, and yes, I might be a little biased! And although at times it seems like we never have enough manpower, never have enough money, and have way too many additional duties, the one thing that cannot be argued is the sense of family or ohana that not just our Air Force, but all of our Services possess.
At some point, I will no longer have the privilege of wearing my Air Force uniform, but the friendships that I have made, the many memories that I will always have, and the incredible professionals that I get to work with every day will be something that I will never forget.