Who has the most important job in the Air Force?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Kenneth Woodcock
  • 22nd Security Forces Squadron commander
Some years ago (I won't say how many), an Air Force Academy cadet visited my base on Operation Air Force. She asked me a question that caused me to do some real thinking.

She said, "Sir, I want to be a real leader in the Air Force someday. To do that, I think I need to be in the career field that is the most important. Who has the most important job in the Air Force?"

This seems like a question to which an experienced officer should have an answer. At the time, I was glad I was a young and inexperienced officer, so I didn't have the burden of that requirement. I could admit I didn't know.

However, that question set me on a quest to find out exactly who has the most important job in the Air Force. As any good investigator knows, the best way to find out something is to do it in such a way as to not tip off those you are investigating that you're in fact investigating them. Being married to an active duty member, I had a great cover. I attended her squadron's social functions in civilian clothes so as not to give myself away. I would ask Airmen of all ranks who they thought had the most important job in the Air Force. If I asked maintainers, they told me maintenance was the most important because without it, no airplanes fly. Aviators told me that without them, no one could fly the aircraft, so they were most important. Civil engineers said they were the most important because who else keeps the lights on, the streets clean, the airfield plowed of snow, bombs disarmed and buildings in good repair? Contracting said it was them because the Air Force uses contracts for essential goods and services. So I became more and more intrigued. Everyone I talked to thought they had the most important job in the Air Force.

And everyone was right.

But how can everyone be right about something as critical as that? There has to be something in the Air Force that is the most vital, the most essential, the most critical. The answer is not what you might expect, it is the simple truth that each career field, each "job," each role in the Air Force is dependent upon all the others. There is no vacuum in which one career field, carries out the mission of the Air Force to fly, fight and win.

Each career field depends to some degree on another specialty to succeed. Security forces would be unemployed if there were no bases to secure, no aircraft to guard, or no traffic to control. Without everyone else doing their jobs, your Defenders would have nothing to defend. Collectively, we all enable the mission. And we all execute our portion of the mission. Everyone has the most important job in the Air Force. Every job in the Air Force is critical, essential, and vital. No one job is more important than another because without all of them working together, none of them get done.

Benjamin Franklin said "If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately." The Air Force is the living embodiment of that principle. We are all in this together. We are each other's backup, each other's wingmen and each other's support. There is no more important job than that.

Having been there when backup was needed, I can tell you that seeing someone rushing to your aid is a feeling like no other. Seeing someone risking their own safety to ensure yours is something people who have civilian jobs rarely experience. We see that more often than we can count in our business, because that's what we do. As some of my Airmen say "Sir, that's how we roll."

Who has the most important job in the Air Force? You do. It doesn't matter what specialty you're in or what kind of badge you have on your uniform. First and foremost, you're an American Airman. What could be more important than that?