Change … key to progress

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher C. Johnson
  • 99th Air Base Wing Chapel

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. - If anything is true, change is true. As Benjamin Disraeli famously said, “Change is inevitable.”


The biggest challenge for me when I enlisted in 2008 was learning to accept and manage change.


This challenge should have been simple; however, it was not welcomed easily. Leaving my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio to board a direct flight to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, did not go how I imagined it would.


This was my first time leaving the city of Cleveland. The thought of flying somewhere, anywhere, filled me with excitement. However, the enthusiasm and eagerness quickly came to an end once the plane took off. How ironic that my first time flying was to head to the start of a career based on aircraft. I thought to myself, “This isn’t what I expected, I don’t like this!”


As I sat on the plane breathing heavily into a paper bag, I remember thinking to myself, “Why?” Why did I decide to go through with this? To some, this may sound funny or even unnecessary, but for me, it was the first struggle I encountered with drastic change.


Throughout my six weeks of basic military training “fun” at Lackland AFB, I can honestly say the most difficult and demanding part was adapting to change, not just a change, but all-inclusive wide-ranging change. Almost everything that I was and knew was about to change.


Serving in the U.S. Air Force has given me opportunities I could have never imagined. I attribute having seized the opportunities to my acquired ability to adapt and learn. I now see how being able to adapt to change makes us more resilient. No matter how big or small the change was, I learned to adjust, and even more importantly learned they were my “friend” and gateway to new experiences. 


Fear only keeps us from those experiences, and without going into the USAF, I don’t know if I would have challenged myself to learn these lessons. I did this by beginning to view each change as a challenge; an opportunity to learn and grow.


My first deployment was to Iraq in 2010, and I was notified I was heading out with only two weeks’ notice!  I was nervous and unsure whether or not I would be able to deal with this rapid change. Leaving everything behind in a two-week period was not an easy thing to do, but I was able to adapt. I thought about how this deployment could be viewed as a way to travel, visit new cultures and meet new people. I looked at this situation as another journey and stepping stone in my career.


Ultimately, the experiences I had on that deployment shaped the way I now view traveling, as a gateway to new experiences. Although these experiences are not always the easiest, I appreciate the opportunity to learn about other places, and meet new people. Above all, I appreciate what I learned about myself.  Change is just another opportunity to challenge myself and what I am capable of accomplishing.


When we adapt to change life gets more exciting, and our dreams enlarge.


Entering the military was the easy part, but adapting to the changes thrown at me is where the road got rough. When faced with change I have learned that it is better accept it and go forward as opposed to moving around or avoiding it. When I have been unwilling to accept change, the progress in my journey always came to a screeching halt. But, when I have embraced it, faced the fear of the new, taken that deep breath and charged on; the victory was always my own.


We are all placed in new situations pretty much daily in our military careers. The skill of adaptation we master in the military will benefit us for the rest of our lives. It matters not if it is a good change or a bad change, as to whether we get better because of it.  Changes will come, whether they be in the form of a permanent change of station (did it), a short notice deployment (had it), an Air Force Specialty Code change (had one), an illness (been there), or even the passing of a loved one. One thing of which I always try to remind myself when going in such times is that “there is always beauty in the struggle.” When I reflect on the times I struggled most with change, I notice, I am still here. Time was not going to stop, so why was I about to?


The ability to adapt allows us to achieve goals or reach milestones no matter how impossible they may seem. This can be in the form of studying for promotion, applying for a new position/job, or better time management to accomplish a task at work.


To adapt is to survive and to survive is to endure and continue the adventure we call “life.” The most important thing to remember is, once again, “Change is Inevitable.” It’s how we adapt to it; that’s what’s important.  


I spent six years as a Security Forces’ defender, and now as a chaplain assistant. I have been on taskings away from my home and family. Looking back at that 18-year-old nervous teenager on his first plane flight to now, I know, and really only I know, just how far I have come, just how far I’ve grown.


Remember, our journey does not end with our military career. We can’t let the crises or changes in our lives end our journey. We are most alive when we are changing. Think about it, when everything stays the same, so do we. Fostering this mindset has indefinitely set me up for success. Not just in the Air Force, but success at home, with my family, and success in the future. The thought of this fills me with excitement. I eagerly look forward to what is yet to come for me and my journey into that “wild blue yonder.”