Today I visited the Operations Center at the North Dakota National Guard’s base in Fargo. One of my students, Justin, is working there and I went over to see what his job entailed. It was an interesting experience on a couple of fronts.
First, it was interesting to see the setup they utilized in the operations center and to learn about the diversity in the room – be it in regard to rank, age or gender. As for the setup – well, the North Dakota National Guard is hooked up. Their capabilities are pretty sweet. If I have any issues I will be calling them directly as they are really hooked into “the know” and have the resources to make things happen (albeit, I didn’t inquire about how big their snow plows are…hmmm…next time).
It was very nice to see both men and women manning positions of significance. Of course there were decidedly more males than females, but I took solace in the fact that the women that were there seemed to be treated as equals.
In the age collective that I saw there today, Justin was, I dare say, one of the youngest; and, compared to others in the room, he was fairly low on the ranking food chain. Yet, the folks I spoke with really seemed to value his contribution and spoke with high praise for him. It was nice to see that – a valuation based not on age or ranking – but instead on contribution.
What I found even more interesting though was the pride I felt seeing Justin’s commitment to his work and his professionalism. Was this the same Justin who I had in class – the one with the quick, sarcastic wit? Was this the Justin that used his charm to try to get himself and his classmates out of work? Was this my Justin – the Justin that was part of that group of students that I deemed my wild, freewheeling students most likely to get into mischief (the ones I lecture a lot, but love extra-special)? Really??
I can acknowledge that over the time Justin has been with us I have seen the deep-seated tenets of responsibility and capability – first in glimpses and then with increasing clarity. He has always had a spark that I knew would serve him well if he could harness it…but I sometimes worried if he would travel down a half-dozen unfulfilling paths before his spark was fully realized. The young man I saw today was poised, confident, committed and talented…the young man I saw today has harnessed his spark.
Seeing Justin represent himself and our program so well brought a little tear to my eye. He is another one of my fledglings that is gaining wings and readying himself to fly out of the nest. I am both happy and a little sad at that prospect – happy for his growth, but sad that he’ll leave and I won’t get to see him as much.
The baby birds, they all develop their wings and fly away. In this case though I suspect Justin will do more than fly, I suspect he will soar.
Day six hundred and forty-five of the new forty – obla di obla da