By Col. Scott Caine (Ret. USAF senior officer)
The COVID-19 crisis has created much discussion about personal safety, public health and acceptable risks.
The lockdown that many state and local politicians are imposing on people goes far beyond the concept of risk mitigation and is an all-out assault on our freedoms.
Taking risk is something I watched men and women under arms do for 30 years while serving in the U.S. Air Force as both a fighter pilot and later a senior leader.
The A-10 Thunderbolt pilots I led as the 25th Fighter Squadron commander in South Korea knew the risks when they flew missions north of Seoul. These missions ensured they were always ready to defend freedom. Perhaps the word “fighter” in the pilot title tells you something about the brave men and women who are still working to keep our country safe and secure.
We can learn a lot of lessons from the military when it comes to how to handle COVID-19. Commanders can’t exactly send everyone home and tell them to work remotely. As a former 9th Air Force Vice Commander, I witnessed daily the innovative and adaptive spirit of a force of nearly 30,000 men and women.
There are more than 1.5 million active and reserve service members serving and maintaining readiness for us across the globe. Many of my former colleagues speak about the changes being made to keep up progress while maintaining safety.
One example is the way the United States Air Force has added a second basic training location at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. This innovation has allowed the Air Force to consolidate training for these new recruits in one location so their basic and follow-on technical training is at the same location. This approach reduces travel and therefore infection risk.
The biggest lesson we can learn from the military is leadership.
When things get difficult, that’s when you call the military. We’ve seen heroic service from our medical professionals helping in New York City and other regions. Military transport missions have been instrumental in delivering needed protective equipment across the country.
The military has not been spared from COVID-19, as we’ve lost two members in uniform. However, the stats from Air Force Magazine show the mission continues to move forward as cases are being treated and the recovery rate is extremely high for this low-risk sector of society.
For many in our region who are retired, we must weigh risks and rewards in everything we do. But like the military, we must move forward. Thankfully, Governor Ron DeSantis has taken approach that reflects that of our military leaders.
The decision to go to a restaurant or to visit the beach needs to be yours and not left in the hands of well-intentioned but misguided government officials who in many cases are overstepping their bounds.
Our economy is in tatters and its time we realize the minimal risk of catching COVID-19 is not worth the price to our economy and society. So many have risked their lives for freedom and now is not the time to cower and hide.
Life is full of risks but it’s also rewarding beyond anything you can imagine. Let’s maintain safety in everything we do and remember those who have lost the battle to this invisible enemy. If you feel sick or are not in the best of health, don’t get into your fighter jet. The risk isn’t worth it.
Your next trip to the grocery store may not be like a close air support mission, but being grounded is not what this country was built on.
COL(R) Scott Caine is a candidate for US Congress Florida District 8, and is running in the Republican Primary against incumbent Representative Bill Posey.