What sets the Air Force apart?

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Calvin Daniel
  • Commander, 97th Force Support Squadron
Since my time in recruiting, one thing I often think about is our shared Air Force culture and what that means to each Airman. In the Marine Corps, every Marine is a Rifleman first, and of course everyone knows about "The few, the proud..." In the Army, everyone is a Soldier first, with the Army brand so strong that people in my hometown use the word "military" and "Army" interchangeably. In the Navy, the shared experience of sea duty still carries the notion of adventure and mystique, which has endured for hundreds of years. Along these lines, what then is the draw for someone to join and remain in our Air Force? In my opinion, the things that should instill this desire to join and longing to stay are pride in our glorious past, our professional standing in the present and rapt attention to the future.

The pioneers of airpower were larger than life, selfless in death and Airmen of fundamental integrity in everything they did. Gen. Billy Mitchell sacrificed his career for integrity, standing firm in the correct belief that the Air Force would be more effective as a separate service. Countless Airmen went to their deaths in wooden air frames covered in canvas, sacrificing their lives so people continents away could live freely. We have a brave and glorious heritage, ultimately framed by selfless actions that continue to this very day.

Day by day, I'm struck by the professionalism of our Airmen. I'm often told how nice Air Force members are. It's true; take the pleasant, smiling captain who yielded you a parking space at the Commissary. Put him or her behind the stick of a C-17 Globemaster III, however, and that competent professional will accomplish the mission every single time, much to the chagrin of weary enemies. Or consider the nice staff sergeant who coaches little league. Imagine that same sergeant - a security forces member - responding to a suspect trying to gain access to our base, intending to harm our people or resources. Rest assured, our people and resources will remain undisturbed if that sergeant has anything to say about it. Even today, we remain devoted Airmen who accomplish the mission with the quiet professionalism of well-trained warriors and the humble gratitude of a nation we are sworn to protect.

What really sets the Air Force apart is that we constantly scan the horizon, not only to see the next threat, but to also have already sorted a response. Want to bring down our satellites? We'll be ready, and you should be keeping a close eye on yours. Thinking about taking down our network? We've been thinking about that too, and made it more secure. Think you can hide from our remotely piloted vehicles? A lot of bad guys aren't around anymore to ask how that worked out for them. And we'll be working on nanotechnology - planes the size of shot glasses with cameras to collect intelligence in the smallest nook or cranny that an enemy may hide in.

As a service, the Air Force has always accomplished the nation's mission with integrity, and let's face it, a bit of flair; streaking across the wild blue yonder, airframes gleaming, scarves billowing in victory or sacrifice. Our Airmen, from general officers to technical sergeants, remain consummate professionals in discharging their duties. Finally, we take pride in countering threats well before an enemy realizes their capability could be a threat. For these reasons, I feel pride in this Air Force - a long, blue distinguished line. And I hope that my fellow Airmen do as well.