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A trait every leader should exhibit

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I had the opportunity to attend the Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy graduation last week. Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Rodney McKinley was the guest speaker. He told a story about an Eielson Air Force Base wing commander and command chief who stood at the main gate on a cold evening and stopped every vehicle leaving the base. The wing commander and chief told every person they cared about them, to drive safe, and they looked forward to seeing them again.

One of the cars they stopped was driven by a young Airman. They told her the same thing they told the others - they cared about her, to drive safe, and they looked forward to seeing her again. The young Airman departed the base and after driving a few yards down the road, stopped her car, turned around, and headed back to the base. When she got to the gate, she told the wing commander and chief that she had been leaving the base to kill herself because she thought no one cared about her. The wing commander and chief had no idea their actions would save the life of one of their Airmen.

This year has been extremely tough for a lot of people. Many folks lost a significant portion of their retirement, children's education funds, and are thousands of dollars in the rear due to the decline in the housing market. Some are able to deal with it; some will require help to get through it. Will they turn to you? When people know that you truly care, it doesn't matter if you have a reputation for being hard or that you're not their supervisor, they will confide in you. Sometimes they need advice, other times they just need someone to listen. Whatever the case, be honest, show compassion, and don't pass judgment.

Many of us are negatively impacted by the economy, but still found that compassionate spirit which helped the wing exceed its Combined Federal Campaign contribution goal by nearly $14K, setting a new wing record in the process. Like last year, many of us will help CBC Brevard County foster children wishes come true by providing toys and clothing this holiday season.

These are stressful times and our medal as leaders is being tested - be honest, compassionate, and meet those challenges head on.