Commentary by Lt. Col. Jason Nahrgang
50th Force Support Squadron commander
What are you doing here? No, not here as in “on Earth,” but here as in here and now, as an Airman, a civil servant or a defender of our nation. How did you get here? Odds are, you volunteered or at least made some conscious choice to make the Air Force your profession. That conscious choice manifests itself wholly in the second of our Air Force Core Values, Service Before Self. Many of us have taken a more protracted and analytical look at these three words while another portion of our ranks simply sees them as a motto on a coin or shield. Yet another segment takes the interpretation literally and says, “it’s not fair that I’m deploying again.”
Ok, news flash: It’s not about you. The profession of arms is a serious endeavor that has little room for personal biases. That is not to say we blindly follow directives. Rather, it’s about doing what is best for the Air Force on a daily basis.
Maybe it is about you? Each of us brings to the fight certain perspectives, norms, experiences or other traits or characteristics that, in theory and practice, make us most viable as a military arm of our elected government. We are more focused, more capable, better educated, better trained and more equipped to handle the challenges placed in front of us than ever before. At least we better be, particularly in light of rapidly diminishing budgets and personnel cuts. There are innumerable ways each of us contributes, but a few have me thinking lately.
Let’s start with something easy: Have you ever heard a deploying battalion of 500 Soldiers belt out a rendition of “The Army Goes Rolling Along” in a small auditorium right before they all depart for a far-away destination to defend the nation? If you haven’t heard them all sing aloud and in wonderful unison, ‘HI! HI! HEY! The Army’s on its way,” then you’re missing out. It will just about make you want to go green. You can hear the pride, the tradition and the sense of purpose when Soldiers sing. Why don’t we do that with the Air Force Song? After most promotion, retirement or other ceremony, it seems as if only about half the audience knows the words and only about half of them are actually singing. Now, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but it’s our Air Force Song … sing it! Loud!
Here’s another easy one … salute. It says a lot about you and even more so when you don’t or avoid it until the last possible minute. Too many Airmen appear to shy away from situations where rendering a salute is required no matter how simple or innocuous the situation may be. Frankly, maybe we should be seeking out those opportunities, looking for someone to salute so we can demonstrate our proficiency. One day, on my way to lunch, I’d barely made it out the front door of the building when I heard someone holler, “Good morning, Sir!” From nearly 50 yards away, a senior noncommissioned officer in the parking lot saw me and saluted smartly. That’s effort. Make it!
Finally … pick it up. Whatever it is, trash blown in by the wind, an empty water bottle, a gum wrapper in the hallway or a soda can rolling around the parking lot, pick it up and dispose of it properly. It’s a really easy way to show you care whether someone else is watching or not. In fact, you demonstrate that you don’t care if you wander past something without taking action. It’s your work center, your building, your base. Take care of it!
Each of us will serve for only so long before we give the reins to the next generation. While you’re here, try to make a difference, because it is about you, and us and the collective service we provide to the defended. Start with the easy stuff: Sing! Salute! Pick it up! We might not be able to solve the current manning or budget crises, but we’ll at least sound like we gave ‘er the gun and looked good doing it in an environment we can be proud of.