Beagle.jpgIt has been several weeks since I drafted my last article for the Fort Jackson Leader. There have been so many positive messages and stories to share since my last article, that I simply enjoyed reading and following the stories. Stories ranging from another Fort Jackson Soldier being selected as the Army’s Best Warrior to the celebration of key events such as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and many others are simply heartwarming to read. On a weekly basis, our focus is generally on the here and now which is always a great place to be.

As part of my daily ritual, a portion of my day is devoted to reflecting on the past, another is devoted to the future, but the majority of my time is spent in the moment; the here and now. Of these three areas, I prefer being in the moment most, followed closely by attempting to view into the future. My least favorite is dwelling on the past, but it is necessary. History does not repeat itself, it educates, therefore we must devote the proper time to reflect and educate ourselves. As someone once stated, “the past has been written, but it is up to us to write the future.” This saying has always stuck out in my mind as one of those rare truths of life.

The focus of this article is to urge our collective team to take a quick reflective look at our (Fort Jackson’s past) and then do some deep thinking about our future. I am “borrowing” the title of this article from a book that someone loaned to me titled “The Future is Faster Than You Think” by Peter H. Dimandis and Steve Kotler. Although the argument of the book is not the focus of my article, the title is yet another one of those rare life truth — the future comes faster than we think. By the time you finish reading this article, my goal is to influence you to reflect, but at the same time compel you to think about “how” you will respond to an uncertain, but fast approaching future.

Between the “eights.” It is hard to believe that eight months ago, Fort Jackson, our community, and our nation were caught in the midst of a global pandemic. March 2020 seems like a distant memory, but back in March, November 2020, a new fiscal year, and a presidential election seemed light years away. Well here we are! It came faster than we could have imagined. That being said, July 2021 (eight months from now), summer training surges, transitions and the evolution of COVID-19 will be here before we can blink twice.

When I look back and reflect over the past eight months, I — like you — see the unexpected toll in terms of deaths and family devastation wrought by COVID-19. But at the same time, as a hopeful person, I can also see a lot of positives. Sadly, many lives have been lost due to COVID and millions of people have been inalterably impacted directly and indirectly by the pandemic, to include many of our teammates on Fort Jackson. Amazingly, we have come together as a team, adapted our behaviors to thrive rather than whither, and continued to achieve much as individuals, teams, and collectively as a community of strength. Let us not forget a quote from Charles Darwin, 1809, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

This quote is appropriate for Fort Jackson and our team. We have been responsive to the changes caused by COVID-19, but we have NOT been deterred in anything that we set out to do. Our collective response efforts have essentially maintained an average 2% positivity rate for our installation, whereas the norm across our nation, and in our state, hover around 10%! We have trained and shipped over 20,000 Soldiers to other installations with only two positive cases departing our installation (the virus is sneaky!). In addition, our tremendous Garrison team deliberately and thoughtfully brought back many programs and services needed by our installation without one shut down or “pause” since re-opening. The Moncrief Army Health Clinic medical professionals have continued to test across our installation and meet other medical readiness needs with what is undoubtedly the smallest medical team charged with caring for one of the largest missions in our Army. This is a great record of achievement that we have all collectively earned — and it is being written into the history of our Army as our institution records the response to COVID-19.

As I wrote earlier, our future is right around the corner and will be here before we know it. I recently read an author’s definition of anxiety and it stated “anxiety is the fear of more fear.” Up until now, anxiety, stress, and fatigue have been hurdles on our path since March 2020. As we continue to move forward, these hurdles will remain permanent fixtures on our path. Like Mario Kart, these hurdles are capable of popping up unexpectedly, intending to derail from us from our objective path and continued forward momentum.

The future remains to be written — and as we have accomplished much to date, it is up to all of us to attack the “now” and “what’s next” to write that future as we move forward. Ideally, we will reflect back from July – August 2021 and be proud of what we accomplished — or we can whither on the path and be filled with anxiety about what lies ahead. As you and I reflect back now, I would argue that we wrote our future from March 2020 to TODAY in a way that I am certainly proud of. We faced anxiety and experienced the fear of the unknown, but it did not deter, nor did it stop Team Jackson from achieving superlatives at individual, team, and community levels in all many diverse arenas.

As I have stated many times about Team Jackson, we do not concern ourselves with “wringing our hands,” we simply roll up our sleeves and move forward. In moving forward, there are numerous things that we could be fearful of, anxious about, or tired of, but we can reduce this anxiety now by seeing clearly what we know will be key variables in our future.

By the time many of you read this, the presidential election will have been decided, the certainty of a COVID-19 vaccine likely still be months away, cases of COVID-19 will either have increased or settled down (again), and regardless of these things, time will not have stopped. The future is coming, it is coming faster than we think and will be here sooner than we expect.

With this being said, think about what you have done to make life better for you, your Family and your organization. Ask yourself daily, what you are doing to make for a better future for this same group? Lastly, ask yourself, when you look back eight months from now, “will you be happy with the past that you see?” because you exercised your initiative and took an opportunity to shape it or write it every day, starting now.

“Optimism is a force multiplier.” – Retired Gen. Colin Powell.

It is harder for some to be optimistic — and in the midst of a pandemic, social unrest, the height of political battles and the strain of day-to-day life—this is understandable. Nevertheless, despite COVID-19, we remain connected as an installation, community, and as a nation. Although our main connections are often mostly virtual and regulated as “social distant,” all hope can’t be lost. Our actions, attitudes, and behaviors influence others and therefore, our response to whatever comes our way next will be critical to how our future unfolds. Collectively, we have done well in this endeavor to date. We must decide how we sustain this going forward. It will require each of you to reflect, but also think deeply about the future that you want to inherit for yourself, your teams, and our community.

Victory! Starts Here!