Holiday season carries in hope

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- What is it about this time of year that we tend to forget about the turmoil and challenges of just a few weeks ago in favor of optimism and, dare I say, hope?

I'm not talking about the kind of hope that my 8-year old had regarding an Xbox finding it's way under our tree (it didn't) or the hope I have that my alma mater will be national football champions (my wife bet me I couldn't work that in here somewhere). Those are personal hopes, micro-hopes, not the hope I really want to talk about.

The hope I see, as a military member, is the hope that nations have as they strive for peace and stability. I've seen this hope as a NATO officer visiting our partner countries on exchanges. While governments may bicker, the troops we interact with on a daily basis hold a tremendous amount of respect for the U.S. military and look forward to these exchanges and the potential opportunity for growth within their own ranks. They are constantly in awe of the optimism we bring. I also know many of them look upon us and think our 'hopes' are too big.

Don't tell that to the 22nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron 'Stingers.' Their presence, persistence and professionalism are bringing hope to a nation. For months now, the Stingers have precisely and judiciously applied airpower in support of our ground commanders to reduce threats to the Iraqi population and to our own troops. The result is that freedom is allowed an opportunity to take hold and grow.

The 22nd EFS isn't alone. Many Sabers are there with them in support of the mission and soon many more will follow.

There is no hoping a weapon finds its target. While it might have been a starting point, hope is not a principle of war like surprise or maneuver. From this starting point our Saber commanders have methodically executed training programs for all aspects of their deployed mission. They're turning hope into skills and proficiency.

It is not just the deploying Sabers who are getting prepared; it is the Saber families too. Across this base, support systems are energized and fully engaged in helping our families deal with the absence of a spouse, a parent or a friend. We recognize that our warriors can be easily distracted if they don't know that their personal 'support systems' are not being cared for.

So, are we naïve for having so much hope? I don't think so. I know and have seen what we are capable of. Freedom is worth it -- freedom needs the Sabers.