Playing the Hand You're Dealt...

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- I learned early on in my Air Force career, that often times you just need to play the hand you're dealt. But what does that actually mean? Sitting idly by and lamenting that the dealer dealt you "junk" isn't the way to build a winning hand and/or improve your odds of going home with the big money at the end of the night. But do you, instead, just play the first set of cards you've been dealt? Of course not, I think any of us who have played poker understand this isn't a winning strategy. In the end, it takes a healthy knowledge of the game, a good understanding of the odds, a sound strategy, a notable reputation as a significant "player", and a great "Poker Face" to win at the poker table. I would argue that the current game of poker being waged by the Air Force with the Air National Guard relative to the former's FY13 budget proposal is no different than playing poker, and that these same attributes and strategies are paramount to winning our future Air National Guard and 127th Wing viability.

The card table at which we--the Air National Guard--now sit has been historically well-defined. Our dealer--the Air Force--has regularly dealt us a "challenging" hand, yet we have skillfully played that hand very late into the game. When portions of our current day 127th Wing transitioned from F-16s to C-130s in the mid-1990s, we demonstrated our acumen for effectively playing the hands we were dealt. We successfully played the hand we were dealt four years ago when BRAC 2005 and the Air Force's "iron grab" transitioned us from F-16s and C-130s, to A-10s and KC-135s. Through each of these actions, we increased our knowledge and experience in the game, and better positioned ourselves to play on for the foreseeable future. Moreover, we increased our relevancy at the table, and built upon our reputation as a significant "player" on a national and global defense stage. Concurrently, the National Guard, with the support of the Senate, managed to solidify an exclusive seat at the head dealer's (Department of Defense) table with the recent elevation of the Director of the National Guard to a permanent position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All that remains in this hard-fought National Guard battle is for the Director of the National Guard to receive his very own dealer's license (stand-alone service designation), and accompanying cash drawer (budget)!

Fast forward to earlier this year, and once again we find ourselves in a high-stakes game of poker with our Air Force. Except, this time, we are holding a much stronger hand. This hand, consisting of cards denoting superior wartime performance, highly efficient peacetime operations, and cost effective and highly-trained personnel, cannot be easily trumped. Today, more than ever, we understand the game in which we are playing, and know that the odds--as always--typically favor the house. But we have developed a sound strategy for playing--and WINNING--this game. With our reputation for mission-critical contribution and cost effective excellence, and with the tremendous support of our TAG, Major General Gregory J. Vadnais, whose "take no prisoners" approach to playing FY13 Air Force Budget Proposal poker, we have positioned ourselves to win this critical round, rack up important future mission "chips", and take home the jackpot! Obviously, this latest round won't be the last, but we will have accomplished is keeping the 127th Wing and Selfridge Air National Guard Base viable for the next several years. More importantly, we will have bought ourselves (and our state....) the time needed to engage in the critical future mission planning that we have often lacked in years past. It is absolutely critical from this day forward that we proactively define our future missions, and by default, the very future of our 127th Wing and Michigan Air National Guard.

Please continue to keep the faith, and place your trust in our 127th Wing, Michigan National Guard, and civilian community leaders as we push forward within our state and in Washington, DC, to solidify the future viability of our wing and base. I assure you, we will not rest in this high stakes game of Air Force poker until the last hand has been effectively played, and the last chip on the table collected. Until then, continue to remain focused on safely and efficiently accomplishing your current mission duties and responsibilities - your unwavering dedication and invaluable contribution to our current missions are absolutely critical to our efforts to remain Ready, Relevant and Reliable going forward......and THANK YOU for all that you do to make our 127th Wing GREAT!!