McDew: "Youth everywhere have to pick their dream and figure what it takes to get there."

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After the Veteran’s Day assembly, news editor Nirmal Mulaikal interviewed Four-Star General Darren McDew.

1. Of all your assignments and tasks, what has been the most meaningful and how has that experience shaped you to be the person you are today?

Here is the thing about my 32 years of service. All of my assignments have been meaningful. What you learn over time is that your assignments are not about a vocation. They are not about a particular job or even a particular airplane you have flown because I have had the opportunity to fly a bunch airplanes and do a lot of differents things in some very cool places. What makes those assignments more meaningful is the people you are connected with at that time. My most meaningful assignment was my very first command in Charleston, South Carolina. It had very little to do about the base but it was a great location. It had more to do with the fact that I was a squadron commander. As a squadron commander, it was my first opportunity as a flyer to bring a group of people together in one big team, one big family, to meet a common goal. There were a 170 people that I got to know personally, name by name. I was very proud of the fact that I knew everybody’s first and last name and that I could connect all the right spouses to the right individuals. I could even get most of the kids connected to the right families. It was a special time because we would become very close and I stay very close with folks today. That was the most meaningful task because I could see the impact I had in their lives on a daily basis.

2. After thirty years of experience serving in the Air Force and reaching the rank of four star general, what do you attribute your success to?

First of all, there are some blessings that come; there are some things out of your control that happen because they are meant to happen. But if there are some things that I would attribute or gifts that I have been given, one is working hard. I am not the smartest guy in the room; I am not the most talented but I do work very, very hard to get better and better each day at the task that I am given, especially when that task surrounds supporting other people. I still use a sports analogy: I started out playing basketball and I am a point guard. I am a traditional point guard where if you need me to score I can score, I can score. If you need me to pass, I can pass. If you need me to play defense, I can play defense. I am a good teammate. And so, I still do some of those same things and I believe hard work and being a good teammate are very important lessons to take anywhere.

3. As a leader within the Air Force, what sort of principles and values do you try to instill in aspiring airmen and airwomen?

The lessons I give to people are agnostic to what you choose to do in life. They are more to do with what you want to be. I tell folks all the time; first of all, it is not important where you come from. It is about where you are determined to go and how big you can dream. And then, you have to dedicate yourself to putting the work in, gaining and improving yourself, so you can all the doors open to you when it comes down to making a decision. Some people only get better in the things they like; some people only get better in the things they enjoy. The true test is making yourself well-rounded so that you have more opportunities available. And so, I have tried to do that most of my life, especially when someone says I can’t do something because that is a challenge to go do it. Some places where I am weak, I try to get stronger there.

4. How do those lessons and attitudes translate to youth across America?

Youth everywhere have to pick their dream and figure what it takes to get there. Invariably, there will be things you don’t do well on that path to getting there. You can’t say I can’t do those things and I can only do those things because I am strong. Then, continue to grow and that works everywhere. No matter what the path is, you have to keep improving yourself or you are no value to the rest of the team. You know as a point guard; If you are only a good shooter and you can’t dribble and you can’t pass, you are useless. But if you are weak in an area and get stronger in that area to compliment the other areas, it is much better. All the things you said; you are scrappy. You recognize your shortcomings, no pun intended. Youth everywhere have to pick their dream and figure what it takes to get there. Invariably, there will be things you don’t do well on that path to getting there.

5. What is your opinion of Metea and the assembly that we hosted?

This assembly was phenomenal. I have been remarking to my team the entire team we have been here how respectful and how patriotic this community is. I have been impressed by every student I have met and every administrator and how committed they are to the students and seemingly how every student is to service. I can’t to see what some of you are going to do with the rest of your lives.

Interview by Nirmal Mulaikal