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We Belong

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Massachusetts -- To many of us, there's no better feeling than belonging. We belong to our families, our communities and our country. And we belong to the National Guard. 

I re-joined the National Guard, after a ten-year hiatus, because I wanted to belong. Perhaps like many who rejoin, switch services or transfer units, I just wanted to be "IN." My rank didn't matter, the fact that I didn't know anybody at the 104th Fighter Wing didn't matter, the minuscule details didn't really matter. I just wanted to belong. 

From day one, members of the 104th Fighter Wing made me feel welcomed. People stepped forward and introduced themselves. Senior NCO's gave me the inside scoop on who, what, where, when and why. Newfound friends invited me to lunch. I immediately felt welcomed and appreciated - it was wonderful! 

That's not always the case in some organizations. Have you ever worked in a sterile, unwelcoming environment? The people are robotic and cold. When you approach them, you feel like you're inconveniencing them. They look through you. They give you limited responses. They don't say hello and they don't say goodbye. They don't care if you belong. 

Perhaps you (like me) try to give these situations and people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the leadership is not trustworthy. Maybe the people have been burned too many times, or they are in a time crunch, or it's an off day. Maybe they truly don't get it. Whatever the case, we fortunately don't have a lot of those types here, because we cultivate a culture of belonging. 

We can credit the thousands of 104th members before us with creating the welcoming climate in which we thrive today. They want and expect us to continue to cultivate this culture, through the challenging times of change, when perhaps that happy-go-lucky greeting may not come as naturally. With lots of new faces and changes about, it's important that seasoned members extend their hands with a warm welcome to our new members. 

The 104th Fighter Wing has done exceptionally well through the years because we value our members, and we show it daily. We appreciate everyone's efforts to help out, we thank one another, we trust and respect one another, and we work diligently to develop our members to their fullest potential. On top of that, our incredible family support program extends that welcome and sense of belonging to our families - the people who mean the most to us and who support us in our obligation to the United States military. 

So, when you see a new face, please take the extra time to introduce yourself, answer questions, find commonalities, invite them to lunch or the club and help to integrate them into the 104th Fighter Wing's culture. The warmth you exude will help to insure that we maintain our legacy of excellence. Remember, we all just want to BELONG.