These are the good old days

  • Published
  • By Col. Keith Wesley
  • 934th Operations Group commander

I hear this all the time: "It's time to retire. It's not as fun as it used to be." If I had a dollar for every time I heard that since I joined the Reserve in 1999, I'd have enough to buy myself a first class ticket to Sochi for some luge lessons.

It's not that it isn't at least somewhat true. I too long for the "good old days" when I was younger, thinner, and found a way for the Air Force to deploy me to Germany at least once every other year to make high per diem while eating ├╝bersized portions of J├Ągerschnitzel.
But how much of our nostalgia for the "good old days" is really true, and how much is just selective memory? Are we discounting how good things are now? And are we doing a disservice to our younger airmen by stressing our present times are worse, effectively discouraging them?

First of all, we humans tend to suffer from memoria praeteritorum bonorum, or a rosy retrospection. In other words, we tend to forget the mild annoyances of the past. So while it may have been great to go to the finance office back in 1992 and get cash on the same day I filed my travel voucher, I have probably forgotten the annoying aspect of being forced to wait behind 20 people in line for payment and wasting an hour of my day. This is a natural cognitive behavior, and not something to worry about. However, when you're in the mood for nostalgia, be aware that you too are subject to forgetting the bad and giving our younger airmen a warped view of the past.

Secondly, aren't things pretty good now for Reserve Airmen? We in the military have received regular pay increases over the last decade while civilian wages have stagnated. People stop us at the local Target and thank us for our service. Our equipment is first rate. Our Air Force is still the strongest in the world, by a large margin. Our DoD budget, although shrinking, is still larger than all other NATO budgets combined. While we're not allowed to plug anything into our computers at work these days, we're also not running Windows 95, Harvard Graphics, and Lotus 1-2-3. I could go on.

Finally, I believe it's bad for the morale of our younger airmen to hear the grumblings of the "old farts". Our unit climate surveys tell us that our Airmen want to be given honest mentoring on how to best move forward in their careers. They are excited about their career prospects and opportunities to experience new things. We should be thinking of ways to channel their energy, enthusiasm, and creativity into making our Air Force better. Why dampen the enthusiasm of our young airmen with misplaced nostalgia for the "good old days"? Even taking into account this crazy winter with 50 subzero mornings, these are the good old days.