Thursday, February 25, 2010
Why My Children Will Attend Their Father's Promotion Ceremony
As most of you know, Rob gets promoted to colonel today. It has to be a duty day, and the only time we could schedule it was in the morning, so we're taking the kids out of school to attend.
Amber has had enough illness this year that her absences have tripped the school radar. The Vice Principal voiced concern that she would skip school for the ceremony. "You're not getting promoted, are you?" she asked Amber.
We live in a non-military area, and I guess many people here don't understand what getting promoted to colonel means to a family. I've been racking my brains this week to come up with a civilian equivalent. Making vice president of a company? Being sworn in as a senator or judge? Frankly, these are fabulous accomplishments and earned through hard work, but they aren't comparable in terms of scope of responsibility and impact on the family.
In his career, Rob has led hundreds of people--from the 17-year-old airman just out of training to the crusty master sergeant who had seen it all. He has been responsible for equipment worth millions of dollars. He has been in charge of the maintenance of a nuclear arsenal. He has written national policy that affects not only the Air Force, but the State Department and other national government agencies. Yet there were merely steps toward becoming a colonel. As a colonel, the Air Force is saying, "We trust you to do more."
The Air Force is also saying, "We expect you to give with more." He no longer has a say in his assignments; he will go where needed and when. The "three-year tour" was never a guarantee, but now, one year assignments are not outside the norm. Neither can he request his location. The Air Force can put him in charge of something he's never done before, and expects him to get up to speed and lead in days--maybe even fix a problem in a unit or procedure while he's at it. If someone under his command screws up, he can and quite possibly will take the fall. We've seen it happen to some very good commanders.
This is indeed the culmination of a career. Yet, unlike someone making vice president of a corporation, or superintendent of a school system, or judge, making colonel means more change, more uncertainly, more sacrifice. It is a new beginning.
It also demands more of his family.
This is an achievement for our children, too. Like many children of successful parents, they have had Dad miss events, not seen him for weeks or months at a time when he's on assignment, or had days where he's worked so long, they've only seen him for good-night kisses. Unlike most kids in the civilian world, they are asked to sacrifice personally. The two oldest have lived in two countries and six states. They change schools and leave friends every couple of years. They face uncertainty on a regular basis, wondering if Dad will be deployed or where our next move will be. And by standing with their father as he pins on colonel, they are agreeing to support him in this new phase of his career, and to pick up and start over where and when the Air Force sees fit, even if it means attending four high schools.
There is no way Rob would have come this far--or would accept this promotion and the responsibility it brings--without the consent and support of his children. In fact, we have known other officers who turned down promotion because they no longer wanted to put their family through the moves and demands of a colonel's life.
So, no, my children are not getting promoted. However, this promotion is theirs, too.