Are you ready to be expeditionary Airmen?

  • Published
  • By Maj. Michael Green
  • 22nd Security Forces Squadron
Our Air Force is changing. Certain communities in the Air Force have historically deployed more than others, but the need for expeditionary Airmen has grown, and the request for able-bodied men and women of all specialties is a constant.

However, not everyone in the Air Force has changed to meet the need for expeditionary Airmen. I ask you to consider whether you have answered your nation's call. If you have not, consider your actions as they impact your brothers and sisters in arms. If you fail to embrace the expeditionary culture, you will invariably force your expeditionary responsibility onto another member of our Air Force.

The Airmen's Creed contains the words "I am an American Airman; I am a warrior," but this has not always been a philosophy applied to all Airmen. The Army Air Corps policy, organized in 1927 by War Department General Order 7, maintained that infantry training was not required for aircraft mechanics and technicians. The lack of any perceived threat and the belief that Airmen were different than infantry were the historical starting points for the Air Force. This philosophy remained constant through World War II as aircrew members were viewed as the principle war fighters and ground threats to air bases were limited. With the exception of the British loss of the air base on the island of Crete, the philosophy seemed well founded ... ground support Airmen were not combat forces. Conflicts in Korea and Vietnam spurned interest in base defense, but most Airmen saw this as the responsibility of the Army or air police. It was not until 1996 our mindset would begin to change.

On June 25, 1996, terrorists detonated a large explosive charge at the Khobar Towers complex, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 and injuring 500 U.S. military and civilian personnel. Following the attack on Khobar Towers there was an increased emphasis on the expeditionary mindset. This emphasis represented a departure from the days when Airmen were excused from infantry training. In a 1998 article in "Air Force Magazine," General John P. Jumper, then Commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, argued for a new generation of warriors. He articulated a concept where "every Airman (is) a warrior, every Airman (is) a sensor." His vision involved Airmen who were both qualified to use a weapon and understood their responsibilities in defending the mission.

Today, the Air Force has built on this foundation by increasingly improving the combat skills Airmen receive at basic military training. We have instituted Expeditionary Combat Skills Training and Advanced Combat Skills Training courses for our Airmen deploying in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom ... regardless of their specialty.

While addressing a formation of security forces Airmen this past week, I asked how many of them ever been involved in an aircraft generation or dealt with aircraft on alert. Only two people raised their hands in the entire group, and both were senior noncommissioned officers. In the same gathering, every one could say they had deployed at least once, and many of them had done so three times or more. They are the new generation in our Air Force, an Air Force that is changing.

Are you changing with it?