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Bo Knows: It’s the little things

Members of the 62nd Fighter Squadron and 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit pose with Bo Jackson at Camelback Ranch during a visit to the Chicago White Sox spring training facility March 20, 2017.  Jackson spoke about his appreciation for members of the military, including the importance of Luke Air Force Base to the Phoenix community.  He also stressed upon the Airmen of Luke the importance of taking care of each other and focusing on "the little things."

Members of the 62nd Fighter Squadron and 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit pose with Bo Jackson at Camelback Ranch during a visit to the Chicago White Sox spring training facility March 20, 2017. Jackson spoke about his appreciation for members of the military, including the importance of Luke Air Force Base to the Phoenix community. He also stressed upon the Airmen of Luke the importance of taking care of each other and focusing on "the little things."

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Members of the 62nd Fighter Squadron and 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit recently had the opportunity to visit the Chicago White Sox spring training facility at Camelback Ranch. Twelve pilots, maintainers and squadron aviation resource management technicians spent four hours interacting with players and coaches during a pre-game practice.

The event was part of a broader, continuing community outreach program, through which the White Sox donate $1.3 million annually to local organizations.

The morning event ended with a surprise visit and small-group discussion with White Sox legend Bo Jackson. Jackson is a Heisman Trophy winning, football standout from Auburn University, and a two-sport, major league All-Star. Jackson played professional football with the Los Angeles Raiders, and professional baseball with the Kansas City Royals, the California Angels and the Chicago White Sox.

Jackson retired from professional sports in 1994 and now, among other ventures, serves as an ambassador to the White Sox organization and is also a renowned public speaker.

There is little doubt that Bo Jackson has mastered his trade. There are few achievements in professional sports that he hasn't attained. Yet Jackson's message that day to the Airmen of Luke Air Force Base wasn't about being the best or striving past others, it was the importance of "the little things." He is an imposing figure even to this day, and his slow, southern drawl captures a room’s attention. It is his charisma and connection with people, however, that makes Jackson so compelling.

In a moment of candor, Jackson told a story that he rarely tells in public about a veteran stricken with post-traumatic stress disorder, who reached out to him via a handwritten letter. It was one of a dozen pieces of fan mail that he receives every day. This letter, however, spoke to Jackson; it compelled him into action. Jackson tracked down the chief of police in the veteran's hometown, and asked the police chief to find a deputy who could go to the veteran's house and setup a phone call between Jackson and the veteran. Their phone call lasted a few minutes, but a lasting relationship was established.

When you meet Bo Jackson in person it is much easier to understand how he can build a relationship with a perfect stranger over the phone, in such short period of time. Jackson went on to tell the group how he continues writing and calling the veteran on a consistent basis to check in on his progress. When they first started corresponding, the veteran was unable to leave his house; he now can get out to watch his children play sports. Jackson didn’t relate specific details of their relationships or conversation; however, you can tell that he has a vested interest in the veteran’s recovery and well-being.

It wasn’t Jackson’s intent in telling the story to gloat about how great he is, or how he helped this particular veteran get past his issues with PTSD; it was rather a message of impact. Jackson was quick to point out that all of his accolades and accomplishments in sports paled in comparison to the satisfaction he received from the impact he had on someone else’s life. This message rings true too with our mission here at Luke, as instructors and leaders of Airmen who are the future of airpower.

It seems too often that we get caught up worrying about the processes – whether that be the syllabus or career timelines and requirements – before worrying about the people. If we want to improve job satisfaction perhaps, like Bo Jackson, we should simply alter the emphasis of our focus. A 2010 study done for the German Institute for Economic Research showed that an individual’s happiness was directly linked to altruism. More simply, the more we focus on compassionate action towards others, the happier we are overall.

In an era of Air Force personnel shortages where leaders are scrambling to come up with the “magic retention solution,” maybe the answer is simpler than we think. After all, Bo knows – it’s the little things that matter most.