Climbing “mountains”

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Kathleen McCool
  • 319th Recruiting Squadron production superintendent
While on an aircraft recently, my seven-year-old son pointed out the window and asked me what was below. As I replied "mountains," he got a strange look on his face and said, "That's funny, they don't look so tall from up here."

As I reflected on what he said, I realized his statement mirrored my career. As I was looking ahead at each challenge I faced, the mountains appeared so tall, but as I climbed them and looked back down, I discovered they weren't as tall as I thought they were.

My first "mountain" came on the morning of Aug. 3, 1995, when my dad drove me to the Military Entrance Processing Station in Phoenix, Ariz. I can remember it as if it was yesterday, standing under the fluorescent lights outside the building.

The fear that had been building over the last year in the Delayed Entry Program was now staring me in the face. I was leaving home for the first time to attend Basic Military Training. The "mountain" seemed enormous. I almost begged my dad to take me back home, but his words of encouragement were the reason I was able to walk into the building that morning and survive the next six weeks of basic training.

It wasn't until three years later, when I returned to BMT, that I realized the "mountain" didn't seem so tall. Rather it was a stepping stone that was necessary to shape me into the Airman I would become.

Experiences like this continued throughout my career as a health services apprentice, a member of the base honor guard, a military training instructor and here in recruiting duty.

At various stages in my career, I have faced challenges that seemed insurmountable at the time and even found myself asking at times, "Why me?"

But the question I should have asked is not, "Why me?" but rather, "Why not me?"

All great leaders have faced challenges, and their ability to cope and overcome is the defining difference between a person who rises to success and one who gives up and remains mediocre.

I was fortunate to have many mentors and peers along the way who made the climb bearable. During those challenging times, I leaned on the advice and guidance of my mentors as I struggled through; not unlike an athlete who relies on a trainer's experience to guide them as they prepare for a race.

As you face your mountains, you must find someone to help with your climb. Mentors, peers, even family members can provide the encouragement you need to maintain the climb. Challenges will develop you into the leader you are meant to be and the preparation will be worthwhile in the end.

Know that someday you will be able to look back on each "mountain" you have successfully climbed in a different light.