Leaders share experiences at panel

  • Published
  • By Kevin Gaddie
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs

Base leaders held a Perspective with Power panel here Feb. 27 as part of Eglin’s African American History Month activities.

On the panel were Col. Ivory Carter, 96th Mission Support Group commander; Col. (Dr.) Quintessa Miller, 96th Medical Group; retired Lt. Col. Eloise Stevens; Chief Master Sgt. Larue Holliday, 53rd Computer Systems Squadron; Chief Master Sgt. Jerome Wright, 11th Special Operations Intelligence Squadron and Aubrey Harvey, Eglin food services officer.

The six senior leaders shared personal experiences about adversity and resilience; overcompensating with competence; military and family life; and diversity and inclusion in the Air Force, among other topics.

“I’m just a blessed fellow,” Carter said in addressing adversity and resilience.  “Prayer and many good breaks helped get me through my challenges and deliver me to my current position.”       

Miller said hard work and focus on her career goals helped her overcome adversity in a male-dominated profession.

“I’m happy to be a plastic surgeon,” she said.  “I know I’m in a field where people aren’t used to seeing someone who looks like me.  People always want to put you down and steal your thunder, but you can’t allow that to happen.  Failure wasn’t an option.”

For Stevens, resilience meant adjusting and adapting to the military lifestyle.

“The military is not for everyone,” the 20-year veteran told the audience.  “If it’s not for you, you need to make the decision to move on.”  

On overcompensating with competence, Harvey said his upbringing prepared him for a 30-year Air Force career.

“My single mother and my godfather told me I could do anything I wanted to do in life,” he said.  “My mentality has always been I try to take something and make it better, make it the best, and then start over.  That has always been my challenge to myself.”

Wright said he overcompensated during his first few years in the Air Force because he thought he was judged on his skin color and wanted to outperform his peers.

“Later in my career, I realized the military had changed and concluded that if I did my job to the best of my ability, I would be fine,” he said.  “I was never the fastest, smartest or tallest person, but I always knew I was doing the best I could.”

One question from the audience was did any of the panelists want to leave the Air force early on.  All but one of them said yes.

“There was never a time when I wanted to leave the Air Force,” Holliday said.  “It’s still fun for me.”

The South Carolina native said he evaluates his career after each enlistment.  He said he still enjoys achieving goals, attacking challenges and learning from others.     

Carter’s early perspective on Air Force life was much different.

“I initially enlisted in the Air Force, and I spent my first nine months in my first sergeant’s office, asking to get out,” Carter said. 

He said it took a while to appreciate all the military had to offer and was glad when he finally ‘got it.’

Wright, born in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and raised in a military family in Virginia Beach, Virginia, was accustomed to coastal living.  He said he was shocked by the wintry climate of his first duty station, F.E. Warren Air Force Base, near Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Wright said he also failed tests because he wasn’t good at math and was slow to adjust to military life, which contributed to his early discouragement.

“Having good mentors and forming good relationships with my peers turned things around for me,” he said.  “Now, as long as my family and I love my assignments, I will keep doing this.”

The panelists agreed the Air Force’s diversity and inclusion policies are working and encouraged the audience to continue supporting the initiative in the military and in their lives.