Take time, get to know your people

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jeremiah Monk
  • 66th Training Squadron Commander
Last month, Fairchild Air Force Base lost one of our Airmen in a tragic off-duty accident. Airman 1st Class Adam Lassiter was a Survival Evasion Resistance Escape specialist candidate, assigned to the 336th Training Group for technical training. It's believed he went missing while canoeing in the Spokane River. We recently dedicated a tree in his memory on the SERE campus.

Airman Lassiter could have pursued any number of life paths. But like all of us, he wanted to be part of something bigger than himself; to serve his country and dedicate himself to the noble profession of arms. He wanted to provide his fellow American airmen with the skills and confidence to Return with Honor, so he enlisted with the goal of becoming a U.S. Air Force SERE specialist.

Airman Lassiter performed well in training. Through one of the Air Force's most challenging training programs, he demonstrated great resolve and self-discipline that would have made him a fine SERE specialist. In fact, upon completion of the first phase of training, he was one of the top two students in his class.

Unfortunately, at the time of this incident, this was just about all I knew of Airman Lassiter.

After the fact, I was able to learn so much more about him. Adam was a Texas native, and graduated from Texas A&M with the goal of becoming an Air Force pilot. Unable to achieve this goal, he enlisted in the Air Force with the intent to eventually earn a commission. Adam was married for three years to his wife, Erin. She, along with his mother, Patricia, his father, Gerald, and his seven other siblings, were all exceptionally proud of Adam. He loved the outdoors, he loved the military lifestyle and wanted nothing more than to be an integral member of our Air Force.

Adam was an Airman, a trainee and a member of my unit... but he was so much more. Adam was an individual. Adam had dreams and goals and people that cared deeply about him. Adam had a back-story.

Everyone around us has a back-story as well. We live and work with people every day, but we so often miss the opportunity to truly get to know them and understand them. As leaders, comrades-in-arms and Wingmen, I encourage you to take the time to learn a bit more about those people around you. Learn where they are from and why they joined the service. Inquire about their families, their hobbies and their interests. Ask what they want to become, and how you can help them achieve their goals.

We are all dedicated professionals...but everyone is also a unique and extraordinary individual. Take the time to get to know your people and learn their stories. Some of those stories will amaze and inspire you. And as I learned the hard way, you never know if you'll ever get another chance.

[Editor's note: Lassiter's body was recovered recently in Long Lake, Wash., about 17 miles from where it is believed he entered the water.]