Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Gary Sharp
50th Network Operations Group superintendent
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Basic Military Training squadron at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. As we drove through the gates, I began to have flashbacks of my own basic training experience. I will never forget arriving at the processing station with a military training instructor standing in front of us new recruits with our long hair, various styles of clothes and civilian luggage at our sides.
After going through the standard drill of dropping and picking up our bags, the stocky MTI backed up about six yards and pointed the flag guidon at the center of our formation. He then threatened to see how many Airmen he could stick the speared guidon topper through before stopping and making an “Airmen shish kabob.” To be honest, based on the look on that training instructor’s face, I still don’t believe he was kidding.
A lot has changed with basic training since those days. The “trainees” as they are now called aspire to earn the title of “Airmen” and earn their Airmen’s coin upon graduation of BMT. During our visit, we were given a brief opportunity to speak with some of the trainees. These new recruits with eight weeks of training behind them not only showed enthusiasm to complete BMT and contribute to the Air Force mission, they were excited to be called Airman.
As Air Force members, being an Airman is something we’ve all aspired to be at one point in our lives. Whether we joined to serve our country, to lock in a job or carry on a family tradition, every one of us was excited to be an Airman at one time. Unfortunately, that desire can fade in some of us as we reach a certain point in our career and we take being an Airman for granted.
So what happened? Maybe you didn’t get the job or the assignment you wanted. Maybe you had to deploy. Maybe your recruiter didn’t tell you about 12-hour shifts or being detailed with watching your fellow Airmen urinate in a cup. Well, I probably don’t need to say this, but if you joined the military to have a life of leisure, you are probably in the wrong business. The military is about selflessness, sacrifice, camaraderie and commitment — these are the things that separate us from the guy wearing a paper hat.
Prior to BMT graduation, we had the opportunity to spend about 30 minutes with the family members as they waited to be reunited with the Air Force’s newest Airmen following nine weeks of training. Words cannot express the pride and excitement those families felt as they talked about their Airman and what he or she was going to do in the Air Force — your Air Force. This same pride and excitement was reflected in the faces of the BMT graduates. It didn’t matter if they were going on to become cops, cooks, communicators or mechanics — they were now Airmen and that was all that mattered.
As we enter the new year, I ask each of you to take 10 minutes to reflect on the excitement you felt in the weeks leading up to your military service. Think about the pride you felt telling your friends and family members about your decision to enter the service. When you are having one of those days when you think nothing can go right, reflect on what inspired you to join the Air Force and reignite that excitement you had about being an Airman…the same excitement our current recruits and trainees are experiencing as they look forward to joining our Air Force Team.
From one Airman to another, thank you for your service!