An MQ-9 Reaper sits on the flight line at Hurlburt Field, Fla., May 3, 2014.The MQ-9 Reaper is an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. John Bainter)


Commander: coach's words ring true for us

  • Published
  • By Col. Kevin Merrill
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

When I reflect back on my high school wrestling practice, I don’t just remember merciless practices consisting of endless jump-roping, burpees, sprinting, and sparring matches. The thing I remember is my coach Mr. Dennis Toumi. Not only was he a tough coach with an accomplished history as an Army veteran, 42-year educator, and Michigan High School Association Hall of Fame inductee, but he was also a mentor for the whole team.

Coach Toumi always told us to “Concentrate on the things you can control!” For wrestlers, that meant working hard, being in the best shape possible, mastering skills, having the right mindset going into each match, and controlling reactions to opponents during a match. We couldn’t control how “good” our opponents were, how good of shape they were in, or any other advantages of our opposing teams.

As we continue to battle COVID-19, Coach Toumi’s lessons are more relevant than ever. “Concentrate on the things you can control!”

COVID-19 is a virus that continues to present us with challenges I never dreamed we would face. Over the past several weeks the virus has quickly spread across the country and the world leading to increased health protection measures at our bases and in our communities. Schools have closed, employees and Airmen are teleworking and restrictions have been placed on some of our freedoms. These are things we cannot control.

It is important to remember now more than ever that there are many things we can control. Proper hygiene, staying home when we don’t need to go out, and physically distancing ourselves from others are all things we can do to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We can also control our mindset – how we react to the things going on around us.

The Citizen Air Commandos of the 919th SOW have reacted to COVID-19 challenges in ways that are incredible, inspiring, and humbling. Despite being apart, you have all come together and are taking care of each other. I’ve seen acts of kindness and caring for fellow squadron members and wingmen. You’ve reached out and stayed connected in a myriad of different ways. The Airmen & Family Readiness Center even put on a virtual dance class!  

Everyone’s efforts now allow us to continue our mission. Instead of succumbing to stress from restrictions, connectivity issues, and physical distance between teammates, Citizen Air Commandos have found new and innovative ways to get things done. Our mission continues because of you! 

In the coming weeks, I encourage you to keep concentrating on the things you can control. Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Think of new innovative ways to keep in touch with family and friends and accomplish the mission.

Remember even though we are all physically distancing ourselves right now, your fellow Airmen and all of the resiliency resources that have always been available are still available to you now.

The stresses we are dealing with now are temporary, and we will get through this together. Keep hope for the future as we all do our part to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and lessen the impact on our mission, communities, and day-to-day lives. When we come out of this we will be a stronger, more adaptable, more resilient force of Citizen Air Commandos!