Bloom where you are planted

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "April showers bring May flowers," but drive out the Solvang or Lompoc Gates and you will know the flowers in Lompoc do not restrict themselves to that proverb.

Once known as the flower seed capital of the world, Lompoc is proud of its heritage as "The City of Arts and Flowers." The temperate climate is ideal for year-round planting, and one may see row upon row of splendid blooms any time of the year.

The job of a farmer is to create an environment conducive to growth. Special care is given to ensure the ground has the appropriate nutrients, that the air temperatures are adequate, and that there is sufficient moisture through natural rains and irrigation to foster growth of the flowers.

I look at our military training program much the same way. Each one of us came though some initial training program--basic training, the United States Air Force Academy, Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Officer Training School or others--and likely progressed through some kind of specialty or technical training a short time later. Our trainers and educators were responsible for creating an environment conducive to growth, giving us the basic knowledge and nutrients we need to begin our evolution into strong members of our military community.

The nurturing process does not end on the farmers' fields or in the halls of our military institutions. Each one of us requires leadership to ensure we continue to grow and thrive. We need opportunities to become experts in our career field and to increase our skill set to take on additional responsibilities as we promote to higher grades. Leaders must create an environment in which all our people, whatever their gender or race or ethnic origin, can work free of harassment or discrimination, building cohesion and a sense of community across our ranks. The success of our missions depends in large measure on the degree of trust and understanding that exists among the people in our units and we depend on each person making the right decisions to keep the climate in balance.

We each have the power to contribute to our climate, but we also need to have the desire to grow and it is up to each one of us to bloom where we are planted. We move around...a lot; but that is the nature of being a member in our nation's military. We each have a drive to be successful, but we cannot sit on our laurels and expect that someone else is going to be responsible for our happiness in our lives and careers. Each job is an opportunity to learn something new and each job truly is what you make of it. On duty, look for ways to break out of the terracotta pot and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Take classes or volunteer for duties that connect you with your community and with other Airmen. Find those things that spark your curiosity, that tap into your creativeness, that really make you bloom...and take root.

I was a brand new lieutenant when I first heard the phrase "bloom where you are planted," and it has been an enduring mantra I carried with me through my career. Every time I move, I start something new. I visit new places, take on new challenges, and look for ways to reinvent myself and grow as a leader and as a person.
Springtime is synonymous with new beginnings. As the sweet scent of new florals fills the air, take a moment to pause and take stock. Are you making the most of the opportunities you have during this assignment? Are you making an effort to bloom where you are planted?