Commentary by Lt. Col. Jean Eisenhut
3rd Space Operations Squadron commander
What does it mean to be a professional or to act professionally? We hear these phrases and exhortations often. On one level, it is the clearly visible top layer of observed behavior. In our Air Force this can translate to: is your hair cut to standards, are your uniforms pressed, are you polite in speech and manner? This is the skin-deep, easily observable level — important, but as with many things, the tip of the iceberg.
When I hear the term “military professional,” the likes of General Eisenhower, General Schriever, and General DeKok come to mind. Not only were these men striking military leaders — that top layer of professionalism — a recounting of their careers of service shows that their professionalism ran deeper. They epitomized great capability, decisiveness and fortitude among a host of other strong character traits.
Ideally, the visible layer of professional behavior ties to a more foundational level, and stems from a deep-seeded sense of professionalism. As members of our nation’s armed forces, we ARE professionals. A brief review of common phrases conveys that concept. We are a profession of arms, expected to be experts at what we are charged with accomplishing. Military members attend and complete Professional Military Education, to gain increased understanding and competence. In the space operations arena, the Air Force has established the Space Professional program, which adds rigor to the training, education and experience we build during our careers.
We all have volunteered to serve in our professional military service, when we could have chosen from a number of jobs or occupations following high school or college. Following enlistment or commission, we each completed a series of training and education that have equipped us to conduct operations in our chosen field in an expert manner.
Professions are distinguished by a set of common values. Our Air Force Core Values of Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in All We Do, provide the foundation for expertly executing our mission.
Finally, professionals are hallmarked by their effort and endurance. We endeavor to increase our responsibility and competence. Unlike amateurs, we hold the proverbial fort when the going gets tough — whatever it takes for how long it takes.
So, remember that professionalism is more than skin deep. It is a reflection of our military heritage, the wealth of training, education and experience we bring to bear in mission accomplishment, the individual deliberate decision each of us made to enter the Air Force, the core values which undergird our oath of office, and the effort and endurance we put in every day to accomplishing our mission. I encourage each of us to not only display the outward signs of professional behavior every day, but deliberately forge our own ties to the foundations of our military profession.