Commentary

March 22, 2013

Who, what do you serve?

Commentary by Lt. Col. Shamsher Mann
62nd Fighter Squadron

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — How many articles are there in the Constitution of the United States of America? How many times has the Constitution been amended? Why do we have an Air Force when only an Army and Navy are specifically mentioned in the Constitution? If you do not know the answer to these questions, I would submit to you that you haven’t taken your oath of office or enlistment to heart and have merely mouthed the words in anticipation of a larger pay check.

Every enlisted man and woman in the U.S. Air Force must take an oath to enlist and subsequently reaffirm that oath with every increase in rank. That oath states that the Airman “will support and defend the Constitution of the United States” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Further, the enlisted oath states that “I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.”

Officers in the Air Force swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” and “bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Finally, the president’s oath of office is perhaps the simplest and most elegant of them all. “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The common theme in all these oaths provides the answer to the question of what or whom do we serve. Whether enlisted, officer or commander in chief, we all serve the Constitution of the United States of America.

The Constitution is more than words on a piece of paper. It is an ideal for the foundation of a nation the likes of which the world has never seen. As such, if we take an oath to that ideal (which we all have done), does it not follow that we should have a working knowledge of what that ideal actually is? Sadly, in American society today the Constitution is often discussed as an archaic document whose applicability is limited in a “modern” society.

As a parent of school-aged children, I am disheartened by the fact that the Constitution is merely discussed in passing and never truly studied in depth in school. While this may be acceptable in society (I think it is not), having no understanding of the document that we in the military have all have taken an oath to “support and defend” is not. Reading it is not a tall order. The full document and all the amendments can be read within thirty minutes.

Most Americans learn what they know about the Constitution in the fifteen minutes of news they watch about the constitutionality of some hot button political issue in the nation at the time. Often, this commentary is presented with a slant to whichever side of the political aisle the commentator sits on.

We in the military must understand our founding document at its core without regard to a political ideology. Our understanding of the ideals established by the Constitution should be at a fundamental level untainted by the controversies of the day.

That having been said, we are all human beings with opinions, and we all have different outlooks on life. This is the beauty of America … free thought and speech … rights guaranteed within the Bill of Rights (first ten amendments).

However, those opinions should be based on our own familiarity with, and understanding of, the Constitution and not some television pundit’s interpretation of it.

We all serve in the military of the greatest nation the world has ever known, and we all swear an oath to the ideals that represent that nation. We need to understand those ideals if the oaths we take are to be anything more than empty words spoken prior to a promotion.

Go grab a copy of the Constitution. Read it. Understand it. Understand what you have sworn to support and defend. After all, how can you swear allegiance to something you do not know?




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(U.S. Air Force Illustration by Airman 1st Class Cheyenne Morigeau)

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