Service before self vs. service before family

Senior Master Sgt. Sebastian DeAngelis, official photo, U.S. Air Force

Senior Master Sgt. Sebastian DeAngelis, official photo, U.S. Air Force

 TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – On the night of Dec. 24, 2004, I returned to Yokota Air Base, Japan, from a four-month deployment.

Two days later, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake struck off the western coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The following day, my phone rang and on the other line was my squadron superintendent notifying me that my reconstitution was being waived and I needed to be at a deployment line in 12 hours to support Operation Unified Assistance. 

At the time, I was single, so I didn’t have to worry about telling my family, even though I just arrived home, I would now have to head right back out to support another operation.

How would I have handled this if I were married and had a family? Would that have affected my response when I told my superintendent, “I will be there with my bags packed and ready to go in 12 hours?” Would I have been truly ready? Would my family have been ready?

One of the toughest tasks we ask of our Airmen is to find the right balance between their work life versus personal life. As Airmen, we are expected to perform at our best each and every day and it’s hard to know when it’s necessary to take a break to take care of your loved ones.

It’s very easy for us to lose sight of what’s truly important and chase that next performance report, assignment or even rank. Over time, this could have a negative impact on not only our well-being, but also our families. Your ultimate goal should be to make both sides of your life, your family and your career, happy and fulfilling. If you give either side too much or not enough, you’re going to have problems, so set goals to achieve not only a more productive work life but also a happier family.

Early on in my career, I felt the need to do everything that my job, supervisors or leadership asked of me. At times, I felt overwhelmed by going on mission after mission, deployment after deployment and trying to constantly keep up with the never-ending office work that continued to pile up. I felt I had to do everything that was asked of me and wasn’t able to say “I’m just not ready for this mission.” Although I was fulfilling my duties at work, I was slowly drifting farther and farther away from fulfilling my duties in my personal life.

One day, when my wife and I were at dinner, she said to me, “You are going to continue on with your career and do great things, but when it’s that time to hang up the uniform, your loved ones won’t be in the audience to see you retire.” At the time, I didn’t realize that my life was out of balance.  I felt I needed to do all that was asked of me and if I said I couldn’t do it because of my personal responsibilities, then I would be looked down upon.  

Even though it is us waking up each day and putting on our uniform, our family serves just as much as we do. When we go temporary duty or go on a deployment, all of the household stressors get left behind for our family to take care of in our absence. Military life, although very rewarding, can be very taxing on our personal life, so we need to make sure we have all of our family affairs in order when it is our time to be called up for a mission.

When you go home tonight, please take the time to thank your loved ones for serving. They sacrifice a lot of their time and energy in order for each of us to be able to come to work each and every day to complete our duties in serving our great nation.

The main thing to remember: Never chase your career at the expense of your family.