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Knowing True North is knowing your mission

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert Rocco
  • 6th Medical Group commander
If you've ever been lost and attempted to get your compass bearings aligned, you were attempting to ascertain your True North. True North is the direction from any point along a meridian towards the North Pole. Sometimes called geographic north, True North is a fancy way of pointing you in the right direction--an important first step in finding where you are and setting your bearings straight in focusing where you are headed. Like so many of us, when I was a young Airman, I sometimes found myself lost between demands of my unit, time management and command expectations. When I reached that stress choke point, I found comfort in re-reading my mission statement because when I did, it always put me back on track guiding me towards where I needed to be.

In today's Air Force, we face many challenges that often make it difficult to find our way in an ever changing environment full of demands. We offer Airmen opportunities to enhance personal fitness and resiliency goals but for me, during times like this, I find reminding myself that despite all of the challenges and all of the responsibilities we as Airmen share, our True North is our is why we serve and it provides professional direction each and every day.

In the 6th Medical Group my team recently crafted a mission statement that we believe best aligns us with the objectives of the 6th Air Mobility Wing, 18th Air Force and Air Mobility Command and best points us towards our professional True North. Wanting to avoid the vague verbiage some units get hung up on when crafting their mission statements, we opted for a simple, direct approach on why we are here and what's expected of us. Simply put, we crafted the following 6th Medical Group mission statement: "Prevent, Heal, Prepare, Deploy" and it hits the mark for being direct, all-encompassing and understandable.

Something unique about the medical mission on most bases is that regardless of installation mission or focus, the one constant whether on an AMC base, ACC base, overseas base or CONUS base is the expectations of the installation population for its medical units. Our garrison mission rarely changes and this is why our mission statement makes it clear what it is we need to focus on each and every day. If we allowed ourselves to get caught up in the numbers...600,000 prescriptions filled last year or 185,000 patient visits we could easily overwhelm ourselves before the duty day even started. When we focus on our mission, it removes the stressor and replaces it with a straight forward expectation.

Here, our mission statement's first two elements clearly summarize what our patients need and fellow units expect of us. When medics talk of "prevention", we emphasize the need for guiding our beneficiaries towards decisions that focus on healthy lifestyle choices and towards that end, the 6th Medical Group offers a wide variety of healthy lifestyle options. From fitness programs at the Health and Wellness Center or one-on-one counseling between patients and their medical or dental providers, our prevention mission is first among equals here at the 6th Medical Group. Why? Fit warriors ensures maximum capability and keeping the force fit and healthy ensures a leaner force that isn't hanging around the clinic...they're fixing planes, flying planes, defending the base and supporting the needs of the various units that work on MacDill each and every day. An MDG focused on "prevention" is focused on our primary obligation to our nation: fit and healthy warriors mission ready all the time.

Of course, I hope most of you think of "healing" when you think about the 6th Medical Group and the ability to "heal" exemplifies competency in our crafts as medics. We all get sick...when that happens, our patients want their medical group to provide them the support to recover quickly or to provide them the support necessary to face whatever challenges their personal health presents them. For many of you, "healing" is the bottom line and we are true to that expectation because "healing" is why most of us entered the healthcare professions in the first place.

The final two words of our mission pay tribute to a primary reason we all serve. As medics, we too "prepare" for the readiness challenges all Airmen face. Whether here on base preparing for local disaster response challenges or TDY training for global contingency operations, we medics take preparation seriously because we all understand that the difference between life and death is often the effort we place on the training we receive in the field, in the classroom and working alongside our sister service teammates and local community medical partners (here in Tampa or wherever our duties take us).

Finally, "deploy" summarizes for us our bottom line. Like our grandfathers who fought in World War II and fathers who served in Korea and Vietnam, today's 6th Medical Group warrior medic understands that the true test of any Airmen is the ability to balance garrison demands with the expectations of an Air Force to keep our warriors fit, cure them when ill, prepare to save them in the most trying times, and take those skills where the fight is whenever and wherever our Air Force calls. The large numbers of retiree patients we see each day understand our primary mission and take pride in our ability to support them, their families and today's warriors and their families. We all understand the "deploy" part of our mission pays tribute to those warriors who ensured our countries security for 200 plus years and honors their legacy by ensuring our country remains secure and medically ready for generations of Americans to come.

The 6th Medical Group team values the trust Team MacDill places on us to ensure the safe delivery of healthcare to our more than 35,000 on base enrollees and the 100,000 plus beneficiaries who pass through Tampa each year. Sure we face challenging, sometimes complicated expectations but when we allow our compass to point to our True North - our mission to Prevent, Heal, Prepare, Deploy - we keep our focus and ensure MacDill's Airmen are fit to Fly, Fight and Win and MacDill's mission partners are medically ready for any challenge here at home or wherever our nation needs us.

Folks, healthcare is important...if you ever have questions about your personal health, the health of your family or the personal health of your Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines or Coast guardsmen, please don't hesitate to give the 6th Medical Group a call!