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Focus on your range card

VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. -- The year was 1993 and I was somewhere in the woods around Fort Dix, N.J. I had no stripes on my sleeves, freezing rain was coming down, and I was standing in a 4-foot deep hole with my wingman. Technically, the hole was called a defensive fighting position and we dug it out earlier in the day just like we were taught: Two rifles long, two helmets wide, and armpit deep to the tallest person. When you're 6-foot 4 like me, that's a deep hole...I mean...fighting position.

Once we finished our position we drew our range card. A range card is sketch that shows your area of responsibility and helps keep you focused. It had our left and right limits of fire, obstacles, early warning sensors, and places that our weapons could not engage. That night our instructor came by to give us an update and also some advice. He told us the aggressor force was in our area and if we got attacked to just focus on our range card (i.e. what we controlled) and call him on the radio for guidance.

We recently had Team Vandenberg's second enlisted town hall on force shaping. There is a lot of information to process. So, if you are feeling stressed or having a hard time figuring out all the guidance then fall back on the advice I got over 20 years ago: Focus on your range card and call for help.

First, your personal range card consists of the things that you control and are in your area of responsibility. Your performance is one of those things. I have found that so many situations seem to work out for the best for those Airmen who do their job, work hard and keep a positive attitude. We also control the accuracy of our electronic records which is what retention boards will be looking at. If something is missing or wrong, then now is the time to get it updated. Like any stressful situation though, an Airman can feel overwhelmed and confused. If that is the case for you, then call for help.

That help is your supervisor, first sergeant and other senior leaders in your unit. They can clarify the guidance and mentor you on making a good choice specific to your situation. They will also give you a candid assessment of where you stand in the unit and how your performance will be viewed in comparison to the rest of your career field. You might not like what you hear but you need to do your part and listen. If you do that, then you can make the best decision based on your own professional and personal situation.

2014 will be a turbulent year, but it can get a lot calmer if you focus on those things you control and ask your leadership for help when you feel stressed out or confused.