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Art versus entertainment

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Why do certain songs, literary pieces, or paintings endure the test of time while others hold our attention only temporarily? Why can we remember every word of a '70s song we once loved, but we can't remember another song we heard on the radio yesterday?

Because one song is art, and the other is entertainment. Art makes a statement, it changes us and our thinking, and it endures the test of time. Entertainment makes us feel good, but it is only temporary and the impact on us, if any, fades quickly.

So what role do we each play in the military, artists or entertainers? Do we solve short-term problems or do we work to improve things for the long term?

For example, let's say the Communications Squadron needs to upgrade all computers to Windows 7.

Do squadron members just upgrade each computer until the task is complete using whatever means available? If so, they are entertainers. They've only worked to fix the  immediate problem. Other than the upgrade itself, there is no long-lasting impact.

Or did the squadron think about the best, most effective, way to upgrade the computers?  Did they develop a plan, a standard procedure, to improve all upgrades, so future projects are easier, faster, cheaper, and less intrusive? If so, then the communicators can rightly call themselves artists.

When we work our programs, if we are doing it only to pass the ORI/UCI, we are being entertainers. It looks good, but there is little substance behind our efforts. We put on a  good show, but there is no real long-lasting impact or change. As soon as the inspections are over, we revert back to old neglectful habits.

But if we are artists, we work to improve ourselves and our programs over the long term,  making a commitment to get it right and keep it that way permanently. We strive to set the example for others to do the same.

Let's strive to be artists, not just entertainers. Let's make a difference, not a splash.  That's a lasting legacy which will make us all proud.

Editor's note: Colonel Steele wrote this column as 45th Space Communications Squadron Commander.