Shovel symbolizes value of hard work

Commentary by Lt. Col. Daniel Mollis, 9th Air Refueling Squadron commander

Commentary by Lt. Col. Daniel Mollis, 9th Air Refueling Squadron commander

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE Calif. - At some point in your career, you lay claim to your own workspace. Like many people, you decorate it with meaningful items that you have collected throughout your career. Affixed to the wall of my office hangs a weathered shovel, its worn handle emblazoned with the bold letters “TWNDDT.” This six letter acronym embodies my life’s philosophy: “The world needs ditch diggers, too.” The old, wooden shovel hangs in my direct line of sight while I work at my desk, and it is the last thing I see before I leave to walk among those I serve.

My simple motto is more than just a movie line. It is a stark reminder of two important things.

First, I believe that nothing of value happens in this world without the labors of hard working men and women. Often, these tasks are not glamorous and those performing them are denied a vantage point that allows them to see the finished product or the “why” of their efforts.

Many bricklayers will die long before the cathedral stands completed. A more relevant example is the maintainer who changes a worn aircraft tire with absolute precision and speed, allowing for an on-time takeoff. Unbeknownst to the hardworking maintainer, this was a critical action allowing a KC-10 Extender to rendezvous on-time with a formation of F-15Es, ensuring continual close-air support for troops in direct contact with the enemy on the ground. Therefore, only through the labors of the maintainer was airpower enabled ensuring that American lives were saved that day.

Sometimes it is hard to make the connections, but have no doubt that global reach, global power and global vigilance are brought to bear on a foundation of changed tires, gate guard duties, paid travel vouchers, pallets built, immunization shots given, and, yes, literally, ditches dug. It is the daily job of leaders to inspire and draw those connections.

Second, I will never forget who I am, where I came from and what the Air Force means to me. The shovel is more than just a prop. It comes from a collection of tools that I once used to help my father earn his back-breaking living.

I grew up on construction sites and knew the tools of his trade before I even learned my multiplication tables. I also was made painfully aware that if the job wasn’t done, the paycheck didn’t come and opportunity for work become scarce during down economic times.

These beginnings made me truly grateful for what the Air Force provides for my family. I know it may sound like a huge serving of blue Kool-Aid, but it is 100 percent true when I say the Air Force has provided me with an education, experiences and skills that I could not have dreamed of elsewhere.

I am truly living the dream, the American dream, because just like generations before me, my work ethic alone allows me to provide my children with more than I had.

My friends, in my humble opinion, the world and our Air Force will always need us ditch diggers, too.