Be an Airman of action

  • Published
  • By Col. Ron Langford
  • 22nd Operations Group deputy commander
The recent  Presidential election seems to have infused a new sense of hope for the nation. The promise of a new administration and the election rhetoric of change has inspired the nation with a renewed "can do" attitude and initiated a call for civic duty not seen in over three decades.

I too am excited by what may lie ahead for our nation and I have high hopes for our future, but I also know that hope without action is doomed to failure.

This sense of hope and need for action has spurred me to reflect on the Air Force core values that we hold as the baseline of our service.

The Air Force's Core Values campaign came out of a very difficult period for our service. During this time there had been several scandals among Air Force leadership; a breakdown in flight discipline as an experienced B-52 pilot crashed his aircraft and killed his crew in an effort to seek personal glory, as well as several high profile cases of false reporting on performance reports and official documents. The Air Force needed to get back on track. Action had to be taken.

The question today is, does this bear any resemblance to the circumstances we find ourselves in today? A quick survey of the military headlines of the last couple of years answers that question.

There have been scandals within our procurement process, we had glaring examples of how we've neglected our nuclear enterprise, and we've lost well respected senior leaders over a number of indiscretions. Now is the time for action again.

When the Air Force Core Values were introduced in 1997, I'll admit I was not completely sold on the idea.

Integrity First, I agreed with that one. To employ the lethal force a professional military organization is entrusted; with, it must possess the highest standards of integrity.

Excellence in all we do, I got that one too. In order to be the most trusted and respected fighting force on the face of the earth, we must strive to excel at every aspect of our mission.

But Service Before Self, that was difficult for me to grasp. In an effort to help explain this concept, the Air Force's "Little Blue Book" states that service before self is demonstrated when an Airman's professional duties take precedence over personal desires. The book describes this core value in behaviors such as rule following, respect for others, discipline/self control, and faith in the system.

For me, the key word in this core value is "service." In my mind, "service" is a word of action. To serve, one must be willing to get his hands dirty, to get involved mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Service before self is easy to see in heroes from our past. When Medal of Honor winner Capt. Lance P. Sijan waved off the rescue helicopter that could have brought him back to safety in Vietnam, he sealed their own fate but saved the helicopter crew from certain death or capture.

When Admiral James Stockdale refused to allow his North Vietnamese captors to exploit him as a prisoner of war by disfiguring his own face and undergoing years of torture, he too was demonstrating service before self. These were men of action.

The heroes of the past are important, but not more important than the Airman of today that works long hours in a section who is undermanned and underfunded, or the Airman who deploys or changes station to harsh locations around the globe to provide a combat capability.

Ultimately, today's operations tempo calls for Airmen to serve with an enduring commitment and dedication to the service of a nation equal to the heroes of the past. True service is shown by an Airman's actions.

In the end, no other profession expects its members to lay down their lives for their friends, families, or freedoms. By voluntarily serving in the military profession, one accepts these unique responsibilities. Bearing this in mind, let me end by challenging each Airman of this wing to become a man or woman of action.

First, I challenge you to make service part of your everyday life. Adhere to checklist discipline, even with the most simple of tasks. Support your wingman both on and off duty. Give 100 percent everyday, whether it's reporting as fast as possible to a wing recall during an exercise, or preparing to deploy to Central Command for your fifth rotation.

Second, serve your base or local community. Join a professional organization like Route 56, the Company Grade Officer Council, or the Airman's council. Provide your talents to a base project like the development of our new recreational area.

Third, make a difference in your workplace through action. Employ Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st century initiatives to improve your work processes and strive for greater efficiency and effectiveness.

Fourth, I challenge every Airman to be a mentor. The beauty of our service is that there is always younger Airmen coming up behind you. Take the time to show them the right way to do things and set them on a path that will help them develop into the best Airman they can be.

I challenge all members of Team McConnell to become Airmen of action and have a lasting, positive impact on our service.