INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey-I am an Airman, but only from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and occasionally on the weekend. The rest of the time, I am just a person trying to have a good time. What I do during my off duty time doesn’t have any bearing on my military career, nor should it.
“Say what?!” you might ask. And, rightfully so.
The truth is I don’t believe that statement one bit. However, there are a handful of Airmen who do.
“So, why write a commentary directed at a very small percentage of the Air Force population?” you might wonder.
I’ll tell you why. Because even if we’re not one of those few Airman, we may very well supervise, work with, or even for, one of those Airmen. We all have the opportunity and responsibility to promote a culture where we embrace an “Always an Airman” concept.
Being an Airman is not just a job, it’s a way of life. Serving in the United States Air Force is a privilege that is sometimes taken for granted. Yes, we all volunteered to be here; but the Air Force put us through basic military training and verified we could meet the standards required of those worthy of wearing the uniform. That training and evaluation continues throughout our careers, and the standards are never lowered to match the lowest common denominator.
Our conduct must meet these standards all the time, and not just while we are accomplishing duty-related tasks. We can joke all we want about the phrase, “there is no off duty” because for some Airmen that feels like the story of their lives working 12-16 hour days. All joking aside however, the responsibilities that come with being an Airman don’t have a start and finish time.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “All Airmen are ambassadors,” especially in relation to overseas assignments. This clichÈ statement could not be truer and relates directly to our conduct. Take a look at the recent cheating and drug abuse scandals. Do you think the actions of a handful of Airmen who failed to meet the standards both on and off duty tarnishes the image of the entire force? Absolutely.
Any time an Airman makes the news for doing something wrong, it’s a blow to the credibility of our team. It’s our responsibility to do all we can to not only meet, but exceed the standards. As we do so, we build trust, support and credibility at home and abroad.
We don’t claim to be the greatest Air Force in the world because someone suggested that might be true. We claim it because it is true. And why is it true? Because of the collective efforts of individual Airmen who strive to be the best Airmen we can be all the time and ensure the headlines proclaim all the good we do all over the world on a daily basis.
We have to Step Up 24/7 and seize upon every opportunity to excel through training, education and professional development. We must Step In 24/7 and eradicate sexual assault, alcohol abuse and misuse, and suicide from our Air Force. We have been empowered by our leadership to be a part of the solution, so let’s own it!
Here’s my personal Airman’s Creed: I am always an Airman. This is MY Air Force. I represent it 24/7, and I will do everything within my power to ensure I and every Airman represents it well.
Will you join me?