There IS an I in team

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- Contrary to popular belief or conventional wisdom or even the cliché, there IS an I in team.

The I is you, the I is me. The I represents all the "I"ndividuals who make up a team. And nowhere is that more meaningful than in the United States military.

Our Armed Forces is a microcosm of Americans - individuals drawn from across our great land who bring to the fight unique backgrounds, strengths and talents, and who adhere to certain core values governing the military.

That combination of people and purpose provides the backbone of the military team concept, regardless of service branch, which leads me to why I'm writing this opinion.

During my 20-year active duty Air Force career, my subsequent time as a military contractor and my current civil service stint, I've always subscribed to the team first mindset. I was, and still am, proud to be part of something bigger than myself.

I found that sense of belonging rekindled recently when I was watching this year's Army-Navy football game. Besides service academy bragging rights, the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy, emblematic of gridiron supremacy among the three academies [Air Force being the third] was at stake, so the game meant something besides its traditional pageantry.

The Midshipmen were going for their 11th straight win in the rivalry and were leading the cadets from West Point, 17-13, in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

Army had the ball and was marching down the field for an apparent winning touchdown when the handoff between quarterback Trent Steelman and one of his running backs was fumbled near the Navy goal line.

The Middies recovered, won the game and dashed Army's hopes of salvaging something positive from a dismal 2-9 season.

As expected, the CBS television cameras showed an exuberant Navy squad, then honed in on Steelman, for what seemed like an extraordinarily long time. The senior signal caller was visibly distraught, holding his head in his hands on the bench. This was the fourth straight year his team lost to Navy with him at the proverbial controls.

During those heartbreaking moments for Steelman, the Bowling Green, Ky., native earned my respect. I can only imagine what was going through his mind at that time, but his post-game reaction reinforced my faith in individual responsibility and accountability.

Granted, in the overall scheme of things a football game doesn't really matter. That's exactly why Steelman's emotional display impressed me. Here's a young man, who is so passionate about team success, he exhibits accountability through his body language.

If he places that much importance on a football game as a quarterback, I have no doubt he'll bring that type of leadership to the battlefield as an officer.

In the military, as in football, individual actions have a domino effect on the team. Each individual is responsible to themselves and their teammates.

For Air Force folks, being a good Wingman is a lot like that. Each Airman, including civilians, looks out for each other, in part, by taking care of their individual responsibilities. Collectively, their accountability ensures mission accomplishment for all bluesuiters.

My bottom line is: it takes all the I's working in unison toward the same goal to make an effective team. For acronym fans TEAM can stand for: Togetherness Epitomizes America's Military.