Commentary by Master Sgt. Thomas Locke
50th Space Communications Squadron superintendent
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Trudging through the portal as you step through the security checkpoint, making your way as quickly as you can to the familiar hall and secured room day in and day out, you could be forgiven for thinking there’s really no practical reason to wear a combat uniform here. You could be forgiven for forgetting there are people depending on you all over the world who wear the same uniform as you do in harm’s way. We forget.
I propose to you to take a moment of reflection today as you read this. The intangibility and vagueness of our work at Schriever can leave many of us disconnected from the bigger picture, which is ironic considering the missions we perform every day to connect people across the world.
Consider the “order of belonging” you have. Consider this is more than just an occupation or even a profession. This isn’t something you do, it’s something you are.
You are part of the Department of Defense before you are part of the United States Air Force. You are part of the United States Air Force before you are part of your installation. You are a part of your installation before you are part of your unit. You are part of your unit before you are part of your specialty. Own that for a moment.
So far I have had a career that has seen me wear several different uniforms, visit many different countries, work with joint and coalition partners and take on five different specialties through special duties, retraining, deployments and transitions. In that time, I have gained a small glimpse of and an appreciation for the diversity of our force and the various sub-cultures contained therein. Maintainers turning wrenches on F-15 Eagles with the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, nestled in the Chesapeake Bay looked at their “belonging” differently than a Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Specialist teaching a C-5 Galaxy pilot how to radio in a UH-1 Huey north of Fairchild AFB, Washington on a cold December morning in the Colville National Forest. An intelligence analyst at Osan Air Base in Korea halfway through his tour may see the world differently than a cyber-operator at the 50th Space Wing defending satellite networks. Consider all of these people in relation to an artillery officer in the Army, a warrant officer in the Marines, a chief petty officer in the Navy or an electronics specialist in the Coast Guard. You are part of that family. You belong to that family before you are anything else in the profession of arms.
It’s vitally important to take pride in what you do. It’s easy to take pride when you belong. You belong to something respected throughout the world.