link U.S. Air Force graphic: Airman 1st Class Chip Slack
27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
I am an American airman. Ultimately, the choices and decisions I have made the last 25 years have led me to this chapter in my life. I am a warrior. Physical, mental and spiritual toughness play a major part in every aspect of my day. I challenge myself to exceed personal goals and expectations, as well as those placed upon me by those I care about. I have answered my nation’s call. The day that I took the Oath of Enlistment, just like thousands of others before me, my life changed. Every day since, I put on my uniform with pride and appreciate the life that the Air Force has given me.
In every sense of the word, I am a new Air Commando. In the blink of an eye, my one year mark in the military unceremoniously came and went. The experiences I’ve garnered are nothing in comparison to my superiors’ and colleagues’. I have yet to have the opportunity to deploy, nor have I received any medals or recognition for my efforts toward the mission. However, I’ve found myself being called an example of today’s airman — one of the highest honors any Airman can receive. But what does being an airman today truly encompass?
In my opinion, airmen today unfortunately have a bittersweet reputation.
On one side of the spectrum, there are airmen who are hard charging, quick learning and goal-oriented individuals. This new generation of Airmen has endured the consequences of force shaping and manning issues, all while rising to meet the needs of the Air Force.
While there are the select few airmen who have chosen to operate on a day-to-day basis with a hunger for their respective career fields, there is a stigma that Airmen today have become lazy. That they have forgone the rules and regulations, and only abide by the ones they can bend. Airmen who care find ourselves utterly frustrated that these individuals, who have no regard for regulations and the easiest of rules to abide by, have tainted the character of Airmen across the board. The self-indulging airman, who approaches life with a lackluster, nonchalant attitude, is the epitome of what I strive to avoid.
Everyone’s Air Force story is unique. I have met many Air Commandos from all walks of life and have taken the time to ask the personal question, “Why do you do what you do?” This question has always intrigued me, because personally, surrounding myself with like-minded, motivated individuals drives me to better myself. I am inspired by those who find motivation without the prompts of awards or use Enlisted Performance Report bullets as a justification for their behavior. The airmen of today, who go out of their way to not only better themselves, but better the lives of those around them, those are the Airmen I try to associate with.
As the Air Force celebrates its 67th birthday, it’s forced me to take a hard look at all that we’ve had to overcome to get to where we are today. Part of knowing who you are is knowing and embracing where you’ve come from. Since its debut on Sept. 18, 1947, Airmen spanning multiple generations have faced various adversities while defining the Air Force as a superior air and space power. From the integration of women in our military force to the victories of successfully supporting multiple global conflicts, the men and women of yesteryear’s Air Force have a deep and powerful heritage.
As each year passes, Air Commandos have the opportunity to learn from those who wore the uniform before them. I entered my time in the Air Force during a paradigm shift. It has evolved into a more tolerant, open-minded force. Our airmen celebrate diversity, and acknowledging that our differences make us stronger only intensifies how far we’ve come. We are taught to be flexible, resilient and empowering, and we’ve emphasized the importance and success of the wingman concept.
Today’s airman honors those who have served in another time, under different circumstances. Today’s Airman learns from the mistakes of those before them and strives to embody excellence in all they do. As a command, we are providing combat-ready forces for combatant commanders. We are creating the right environment for Airmen and their families to thrive. We are transforming the way Airmen train in order to groom elite performers and we are ensuring the 27th Special Operations Wing possess the necessary tools to take training to the next level.
We are American airmen. Wingmen. Leaders. Warriors.