Commentary by Lt. Col. Harold Hoang
50th Mission Support Group deputy commander
Have you ever wondered about the meaning behind the words, “Profession of Arms?” Or what it takes to be part of a profession? There are many professions, but none quite like the Profession of Arms. Normally, I would refer to Webster for a concise definition of the Profession of Arms, but it’s not there. I even scoured Google without any luck. I believe a definition of the Profession of Arms is not readily available because it’s internal and personal to each one of us. It’s a calling that requires a devotion to service and a willingness to sacrifice.
On Feb. 6, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the Profession of Arms. In his Chairman’s Strategic Direction to the Joint Force, he said, “We are military professionals, every officer, enlisted and civilian, not because we say so, but because of how we serve.” He added, “Americans take an oath, freely and without any mental reservation, to live a vocation for which they may die.” These are powerful words that most of us take for granted.
A profession is defined as, “An occupation or vocation requiring training in the liberal arts or the sciences and advanced study in a specialized field.” In addition to these requirements, military professionals must also have public trust and a commitment to service. The two attributes are truly what separate the military from other recognized professions. These attributes reflect our Air Force Core Values, our guiding principles.
According to Dr. Samuel Huntington, a Harvard professor of political science, a profession centers around a specific set of skills learned through extensive education and experience.
Regardless of rank or specialty code, when we put on the uniform, we are instantly recognized as professionals and the experts in the job we’ve been assigned, the Profession of Arms. We are professionals because of the training and education we’ve received from day one. We gain technical competency through technical school as we learn the tools of the trade and through continued professional military education, acquiring breadth and specialized knowledge needed to do our job. As such, we’re able to execute the mission with precision and excellence — nothing less.
As a profession, the military has earned a great deal of trust from the American people. Society expects military professionals to have integrity, behave ethically, abide to the highest standards and have society’s best interest at heart. The American people have granted the military the freedom to self-govern because the military has demonstrated high ethical standards and trustworthiness. To that end, the military governs itself through recruitment, entrance standards and continued education to maintain a high level of competency necessary as a profession. The military polices itself through selection boards, professional schools, promotions, performance reports, awards and decorations and when necessary, courts-martial panels to ensure the profession as a whole does not lose its credibility or freedom to self-govern. To maintain the people’s trust, we, as Airman, live by our core values with integrity as the bedrock for all we do.
Finally, the military is a call to serve. We serve the people of the United States. We serve to preserve the peace and, when called upon, protect the freedom and national interests of the United States. Retired Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, said this about service as he articulated what he sees as the core values held by our Air Force, “Inherent in all this is the individual’s willingness to subordinate personal interests for the good of one’s unit, one’s service and one’s nation.”
As professionals we understand that our individual advancement is only possible if we put the success of the unit and the mission first, Service Before Self. Take pride in your service; take pride in your profession.
As I get ready to change stations to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., this summer, I can’t think of a better way to end my tour at Schriever AFB than to publicly say thank you to the men and women of the 50th Space Wing and more specifically the 50th Mission Support Group. It has been my honor and privilege to serve side-by-side with some of the best professionals in our Air Force. You taught me much and I hope our paths will cross again.
Thanks for your service!