Commentary by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
The eighth chief master sergeant of the Air Force, retired Chief Master Sgt. Sam Parish, spoke about followership at the Space Innovation and Development Center Feb. 11. A member of the audience asked him what he thought about the Airman’s Creed. He said the creed is just words right now, but that we will see it take on a greater significance in upcoming years.
I think the chief is right: we will see the Airman’s Creed become more meaningful in the next 10 to 15 years. I believe the significance is clear even today for Airmen who have deployed.
Any Airman who has deployed should recognize the first part of the Airman’s Creed, for by deploying, that Airman has answered our nation’s call. Anyone who deploys to a war zone is a warrior.
At Joint Base Balad, Iraq, the sense of history and heritage pervades the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing’s operations. Every Airman who deploys to Balad learns the heritage of the Tuskegee Airmen within one or two weeks of arriving, and every Airman understands the proud tradition he has deployed to uphold.
The roar of F-16 Fighting Falcons taking off at full afterburner reinforces the role of Airmen in Iraq as America’s sword and shield. F-16s and unmanned aircraft such as the MQ-1 Predator are guardian angels for troops on the ground, pinpointing enemy positions and applying precise force on request – and space professionals here are the means by which Airmen in Iraq win the good fight.
But these Airmen are not content to simply perform their jobs while deployed. Many take what little leisure time they have to volunteer. I watched as volunteers – some of whom had contributed more than 300 hours – unloaded wounded warriors from Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, carried them through Hero’s Highway and into the hands of life-saving professionals at the Air Force Theater Hospital. These Airmen understand what it means to be a wingman and to never leave a wingman behind.
Our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have redefined what it means to be an Airman. In the Army, everyone is a Soldier first, regardless of his military occupational specialty. In the Marine Corps, everyone is a Marine first. The same mindset has recently taken root with our latest, best generation of Airmen: they recognize that they are Airmen first and that their Air Force specialty comes second.
“I believe when the Airmen who are doing convoy duty or activities outside the wire become chief master sergeants, we’re going to be a completely different Air Force. I think that’s healthy,” Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said during a visit to Balad in October.
In that Air Force, which is only 10 or 15 years away, I believe the Airman’s Creed will mean as much to its Airmen as the core values mean to us today, for today’s Airmen are living that creed, and it will carry the weight of experiences that today’s Airmen will always remember.