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We are Airmen first

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Chuck Stewart
  • 375th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
If you ask a member of the Army, what they do, they'll say, "I'm a Soldier." If you ask a member of the Navy what they do, they'll say, "I'm a Sailor." If you ask a member of the Marine Corps what they do, they'll say, "I'm a Marine." If you ask a member of the Air Force what they do, you will get myriad of responses, such as, "I'm just a mechanic, a staff sergeant, a doctor, a three Papa, a flight chief," so-on and so-on. Why don't we say, "I'm an Airman"?

To me, being an Airman means more than a specialty code, rank, position, or being an officer or enlisted person, or even the myriad of tasks completed on a daily basis that helps the Air Force to "Fly, Fight, and Win."

What makes us Airmen? I'm sure we all have different views on this question, and I'd like to share mine with you.

To see things from my point of view, you should know a little bit about me. I grew up in rural Southeastern Ohio, within the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. This makes me a hillbilly, and I value one particular aspect of having grown up in that environment: simplicity.

I don't care for complexity, which may be why I never took chemistry or calculus, and why I don't get too deep into politics. Keeping it simple and sticking to the basics has served me well throughout my career.

Here are a few basic components I believe makes us Airmen: comprehending our decision to serve our nation, valuing our oath of enlistment or oath of office as it relates to our Constitution, knowing the expectations of Air Force Doctrine 1-1, having knowledge of the enlisted force structure, Air Force core values, and grasping the concept of behavior, responsibility, and control.

As members of the Profession of Arms we should be humbled by the magnitude of what we accomplish day after day. We are 1.4 million strong, protecting 314 million Americans, and our way of life.

Enlisted members take the oath of enlistment and the officers take the oath of office. There are some differences between each oath, but one portion remains the same for both, "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."

I ask Airmen if they are prepared to give their life to protect the Constitution, the answer is always, "yes." Then I ask them, "What makes up the Constitution?" In general, I get a blank stare, followed by, "No one has ever asked me that." If I'm willing to give my life for a document written 227 year ago, I want to understand the contents, and beliefs within that document.

Air Force Doctrine Document 1-1, Leadership and Development, contains the Air Force's fundamental view on leadership and development of Airmen. Its focus revolves around Air Force culture, leading airmen, and force development. If we don't value our culture, we run the risk of losing our identity.

This is why it is important to respect our profession, values, creed, song, and participate in ceremonies such as re-enlistments, decoration, retirements, dining-in/dining outs, and Order of the Sword inductions.

All officers and NCOs have the awesome responsibility of leading and developing Airmen. Airmen within the ranks of E-1 thru E-4 need to do three things to be successful; learn the Air Force way of life, learn and master their specialty, and stay out of trouble.

The degree of their success comes from the NCOs and officers that surround them. The seeds of leadership and development are planted in Professional Military Education courses. PME builds the foundation, squadrons build the leader.

Two indispensable pieces of literature we all should master are the Air Force core values, and Air Force Instruction 36-1826, The Enlisted Force Structure.

Our core values help us make decisions, and guide our actions. I have yet to run into an Airman that could not recite our core values. I like to ask questions like, "What are the moral traits that relate to integrity?" "How is rule following, and faith in the system linked to Service Before Self?" "How is mutual respect and benefit of a doubt connected to Excellence In All We Do?"

Without meaning, Integrity, Service, and Excellence are just words. The Enlisted force structure provides the blueprint for an enlisted career. If you are a supervisor or a potential supervisor of enlisted personnel, you should be intimately familiar with this document. It tells you the general and specific duties for each enlisted rank. Why is it important for supervisors to have this information? Supervisors are required to provide their subordinates with guidance and direction, most of these expectations can be found in this instruction.

Our lives as military professionals and Airmen revolve around behavior. I'm constantly observing people's behavior, and then I analyze the action to try to figure out what motivated the person to act.

I view behavior as: appropriate or inappropriate, effective or ineffective, legal or illegal, moral or immoral, ethical or unethical. I evaluate actions based on written guidance, not personal opinion.

Written guidance on behavior comes from many different sources that include policies, instructions, Uniform Code of Military Justice, and Core Values, just to name a few. Clear expectations and effective feedback are essential for all Airmen. Behavior is tied to responsibility and control.

We all have responsibilities that help complete the mission, so, what do we have control of? Hopefully we have control of our own actions and those of our subordinates. Don't worry about things you have no control over.

I can't make you a better officer, NCO, general, medic, pilot, flight chief, or first sergeant, but I'll take every opportunity to make you a better Airman. We are Airmen first.