Have you “joined” the Air Force yet?
If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re wearing a uniform with the words “U.S. Air Force” affixed to it and thus you’re probably confused by my question. My question means more than just your enlistment contract or appointment to a commission. It means a commitment to a way of life that demands your very best each and every day.
I know many who don the uniform and believe they are now entitled to all the benefits our great Air Force offers but yet overlook the necessary commitment required. I call them the first and 15th Airmen. They check their bank accounts twice a month to ensure the Air Force did its part, but when asked to maintain dress and appearance standards, develop themselves or those they supervise, or to lead and hold themselves accountable, their checks bounce. I’d like to share three basic elements that I believe epitomize an Airman who is “all in.”
First and most fundamentally, if you are truly going to join the Air Force, you must make a commitment to our core values. Like the “Little Blue Book” tells us, an adherence to our core values is the price of admission into the Air Force. Airmen must understand their actions are to be rooted in integrity, service and excellence. We were introduced to these values from the very beginning, but for some they have only been committed to memory and not to behavior.
Second is a warrior’s mindset. We are at war and although your day-to-day in-garrison tasks may not have the feel of preparing for battle, make no mistake, as service members you exist for one reason and one reason only, and that is to fight and win America’s wars. It’s a calling, not an occupation. It’s a profession, not a degree plan. A warrior must be fit to fight and cannot effectively perform his duty if he’s not. Just ask the Airman who is currently serving in the harshest of conditions overseas with 60 pounds of gear and a rifle on his side at all times. Keep yourself physically, mentally, spiritually and socially fit — your duty requires it.
Third is discipline and accountability. As Airmen we must be disciplined to do the right thing at all times and put forth the necessary work it takes to be a military professional. Supervisors and senior leaders cannot be everywhere at once. You must have the discipline it takes to carry out the mission and be accountable for your actions at all times. For supervisors, if your personnel do not measure up, hold them accountable. Failure to enforce any standard reflects poorly on your leadership. You must have the moral courage to look your fellow Airmen in the eyes, address the issue and correct the problem. Not doing so indicates a tolerance for substandard behavior and will diminish your credibility and the readiness of the mission.
With all the incredible benefits and compensation the Air Force offers, we must always remember we wear the uniform of our nation, and we owe it to our country, our chains of command, our families and fellow comrades to be the absolute best Airmen we can be each and every day. The only way to accomplish this is by fully committing to the profession of arms. So ask yourself, have you joined the Air Force yet?