US Air Force Lt. Col. Vaughan is the Chief, Joint Operations and Plans, Joint Task Force Support Forces Antarctica.
This is the 42nd and final entry in the Armed with Science series, Dispatches from Antarctica. The series features Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan’s first-hand experiences on OPERATION: DEEP FREEZE, the Defense Department’s support of National Science Foundation research in Antarctica.
Christchurch, New Zealand — End of Tour Report: Relentless Execution
With a 4.5 hour C-17 flight from McMurdo Station to Christchurch, New Zealand, my short tour in Antarctica has come to a close. I spend this time reflecting on my tour. I’m very lucky to have served alongside a team of exceptional problem-solvers. They made my job easy. More importantly, they executed our mission without fail.
As warfighters deployed to a non-war zone, we’re fairly well positioned under the radar, as it were. I look around the airplane at the men and women with whom I served over the past two months. Not surprisingly, I see many of the same qualities I saw in my compatriots in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Qualities like ownership, integrity, service, excellence, creativity, commitment to the mission, accountability, teamwork, and thrift.
There’s no way to succeed in an environment like this without each person digging deep and finding the risk taker and innovator within him or herself. On a daily basis, they are tasked with succeeding in the face of unknown and difficult obstacles. The regulations and guide books don’t cover many of the challenges they face here. They must think on their feet, and they must do it fast. There is no time for whining, no time for laziness, no time for blaming anyone or anything, and certainly no time for bureaucrats. These fine humans make their mission their personal business. And then they mind that business with the sense of urgency and attention to detail of a sole proprietor.
So each day they execute. They execute relentlessly.
Superficially, I’m looking at Airmen and Sailors and Soldiers. Each one managing and leading and making things happen for most potent effect. The Technical Sergeant responsible for repairing and replacing LC-130 propellers fearlessly leads his team into sub-zero temperatures to make sure his venture is responding to his customer’s needs. When other shops might close their doors, the Prop Shop is open for business. The crusty Master Sergeant busy organizing and inspecting cargo loads puts his name and reputation on the line with each pallet he certifies—the sense of ownership in his method is so strong one expects to see a company logo with “inc.” after his initials. Watching the young military medical doctor caring for the sick and injured, one might get the sense that he just opened his own clinic and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure the community is served. After hours? He’s there when needed, 24/7.