Why I stay

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Dillard
  • 22nd Maintenance Group commander
For the past few years, I have been asked several times, "Why do you stay in the Air Force?" I have served for 28 great years, and there are many great reasons for staying. Permit me to share with you a few of those reasons.

I was born to the proud parents of Staff Sgt. Hampton and Rubye Dillard. Born into the military life, I appreciated the flexible but disciplined way of the Air Force. They taught me, although sometimes painfully, discipline is an act of caring. It wasn't a job to my father; it wasn't just a profession; it was his profession. He was especially proud of being a noncommissioned officer and what that meant in the context of his profession in the Air Force. He took responsibility not only for his actions, but for the actions of his people. When another NCO informed him of one of his folks failing to meet the acceptable standard, he took it personally. He would thank his fellow NCOs and then reemphasize his expectations to his Airmen. He considered his Airmen's behavior a direct reflection of him, his unit and his profession. His profession is now mine, and also yours - the profession of arms.

I stay because I belong to this profession, responsible for the defense and security of our great nation. I stay because we take people from all backgrounds and races and gel them into the most respected and efficient fighting force in the world. I stay because I have served, and still serve, with the finest warriors on this planet. I have been taught, and am still being taught, by talented senior NCOs who have positively shaped my life. I stay because when the people of the world need help, they not only call on us, but they also count on us. Why? Because we are the best at what we do. I stay because when I drive past security forces personnel guarding the gate, I know my family and I are safe. I stay because our medical personnel are committed to helping humanity, not just Americans. I walked through a medical facility in Iraq and saw our medics saving not only American lives, but also the lives of our enemies, who a few hours earlier were trying to kill us. I have seen maintainers rally after rocket and mortar attacks to launch our lethal, combat-ready aircraft with a "now it's our turn" attitude.

I stay because I live in a land where respect and dignity are still given to strangers. While traveling in my uncle's funeral procession some years ago, we passed a faded,overall-dressed man. As the procession passed, he removed his hat, providing his respect to another American whom he did not know. I stay because in this country, we have an organization called the Patriot Guard that rides for miles to protect the dignity of our fallen heroes from some of our confused countrymen, so those heroes may be laid to rest with honor. I stay because I have witnessed the American public stop our combat-weary warriors in airports just to thank them for serving and keeping people safe. I stay because my family knows the great sacrifices they make when I am deployed are a necessary price to pay for global freedom. I stay because I am on my third consecutive maintenance group command, and I still get excited when I see the passion in the eyes of our young Airmen and that unquenchable thirst for knowledge. I stay because I still have what Maj. General Rusty Findley, former Fifth Air Force vice commander called the three Ps; pride, professionalism and passion. I stay because I belong to the most lethal, feared and respected air and space force in existence. I stay because I am an American Airman, wingman, leader and warrior.

That's why I stay. Why do you?