It’s Profession of Arms not Regression of Arms
By Chief Master Sgt Atticus C. Smith, 388th Fighter Wing command chief
/ Published January 24, 2010
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- As Airmen, nothing is average about our responsibilities. On the global stage we are responsible for our Nation's security, the safety of its citizens, and the preservation of its way of life. To that end, and as stated in the Airman's Creed, we serve as "guardians of freedom and justice." For well over 200 years, this unwavering commitment to freedom and justice forms the bedrock of America and secures her future. On a much smaller stage but just as important we are responsible for embodying Air Force culture, being stewards of the profession of arms. Any Airman, at any unit is on center stage responsible to uphold our culture; however, I've seen examples where many Airmen have "exited stage right" and their commitment to or understanding of our culture has deteriorated.
Embodying Air Force culture begins with a feeling deep in one's heart that we are Airmen first and specialists second. Air Force culture is nothing more than all the little things molded together that make us Airmen. Our core values, the Airman's Creed, Air Force history, dress and appearance standards, and drill and ceremonies are just a few things that come to mind. For enlisted Airmen, fulfilling the responsibilities outlined in the Enlisted Force Structure is also a major ingredient of being an Airman. Embodying Air Force culture also entails keeping accurately informed of larger Air Force issues or "hot topics." Airmen must not only stay in tune with what the Air Force considers priorities but they also must exhibit effective followership by explaining and supporting decisions of our senior leaders; however, not all Airmen do. Something I observed firsthand.
During an annual awards banquet meeting, committee members were brainstorming fundraising ideas. I was just listening until an NCO mentioned that their unit booster club made good money by having a "buy out of blues Monday" fundraiser. I couldn't believe what I heard. Who would approve such a thing? Where was the senior NCO, the person who should be intimately committed to the profession of arms, in the decision making process? Even if everyone else was saying yes, somewhere along the way there should have been a senior NCO to say "No, that is completely against what the Air Force expects and sends the wrong message." I mean really, would anyone in their right mind ask General Schwartz or CMSAF Roy if they'd like to partake in such a fundraiser? After I expressed my discontent another Airman mentioned that his unit had a "buy out of PT" fundraiser. Now I was thoroughly disgusted.
What message are we sending? If you promote buying out of something it immediately implies it's something that isn't cared for. I feel very fortunate to wear my uniform and wouldn't pay a penny to not wear it. I vividly remember how proud I felt when I finally got my blues issued in basic training. I also remember proudly wearing my "Class As" on my first trip home after basic training. It's not a hassle for me to wear the uniform; in fact, when I retire I absolutely know that I'll miss the opportunity to do so. These reflections are just a few ways I answer the question "Hey Chief, how do you feel about blues Monday?"
Being a professional Airman demands much more than being good at your job. It's accepting a lifestyle and dedicating a large majority of your time and effort towards representing the profession well. Through word and deed you must commit yourself to the profession of arms, regardless of specialty. The profession of arms is not an "add water and stir" program, we can't "cherry pick" what expectations we live up to and we surely can't create an environment where our traditions, heritage and culture takes a back seat.
The sooner a person makes the transition from being good at their job to being a good Airman, the sooner they will benefit from the true meaning of military service and being a member of the profession of arms. So, as you stand on center stage, proudly endorse and represent that you're an Airman first and foremost. If you do so, I'll be the first person to give you a standing ovation.
Bring credit and honor to the United States Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.