The Airmen now aren’t like they used to be

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Rob Rodewald
  • 97th Mission Support Group
I've often heard the expression when an Airman gets into trouble, or faces an adverse action "The Airmen now aren't like they used to be." I then wonder what has actually changed from then until now.

The Airmen today are still required to meet very selective entrance qualifications, most of which are far more stringent than at any time in our history. The Airmen of today are also probably more technologically advanced and computer savvy than the Airmen entering our force in years' past. So what prompts this mindset?

When an Airman fails, the reasons can be many and varied, but many times the root cause can be narrowed down to poor leadership instead of the far too common "bad Airman" excuse which is so prevalent today. As leaders and wingmen, we need to remember two very important aspects of our Air Force culture.

The first is our core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do. If we want Airmen with integrity, who possess a service before self mind set, and who strive for excellence in all they do, then we must influence them with our behavior. Be what you expect from those you lead.

The second is our Airman's Creed, the last two lines specifically which state "I will never leave an Airman behind, I will never falter, and I WILL NOT fail! We owe at least this to America's mothers and fathers who send us their children in the hopes we will care enough and understand the depth of our responsibilities as leaders to mold, shape, and grow their child into what they need to be and not to allow them to fail.

Every day the mothers and fathers of America send the United States Air Force the most precious gift they have, their children. They send us their sons and daughters to serve this great nation--some to even make the ultimate sacrifice in defense of its freedom.

Today, over half of our Air Force (enlisted and commissioned) has entered its ranks since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Airmen coming in today are well aware of the world we have been living since that fateful day. They are aware of the role and operations tempo of our Air Force. They are aware they will be subject to some of the longest deployments in our history and that those deployments will take them far away from loved ones for extended periods of time. And they know many of these deployments will put them in harm's way. The Airmen we lead today came in to serve our great country and defend the freedoms so many proud Americans before us have fought and even died to protect, but still they come to serve.

So next time you hear "The Airmen today just aren't like they used to be" remember who we are talking about, Airmen warriors ready to serve their country. The young Airmen today are the future of our Air Force. The Airman today are prepared to fight and even die to protect the freedoms we all enjoy. We must remember it is our inherent responsibility as leaders to ensure our Air Force remains the most respected, highly trained, and lethal aerospace force ever assembled on the face of the planet. My recommendation is to provide our Airmen with specific, measurable, and attainable performance expectations, provide timely feedback on progress, and watch them soar. As leaders, it is our duty to not allow the future of our Air Force, our Airman, to fail. It is this responsibility in which we can never falter, and we cannot fail.