I am an Airman

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- We, the Air Force, have an identity crisis.

I vividly remember my first day as a Professional Military Education instructor. On that day, everyone stood up and introduced themselves to their classmates with the typical, "Hi, my name is Bob and I'm a crew chief."

Each student stated his or her first name and Air Force occupation. Then came the final student, an Army staff sergeant.

He quickly arose and said, "I'm Staff Sgt. Coleman. I am an American Soldier. I am a warrior and a member of a team ... I will never accept defeat. I will never quit ... I am disciplined ... I stand ready to destroy the enemies of the United States ... I am a guardian of freedom ... I am an American Soldier."

After proudly stating the Army Creed, he sat down. Then a long 15 seconds of stillness passed before Tech. Sgt. Jones broke the silence. He stood back up and proudly responded, "I'm Sergeant Jones and I'm an Airman." He hesitated for a few awkward seconds and then concluded, "And I guess I really don't know what that means." Then he sat down.

If you are on an Army Post and shout, "Hey Soldier" you're likely to have everyone turn around in response. The same thing will happen if you shout "Hey Marine" or "Hey Sailor" on a Marine Camp or Naval Station. However, on an Air Force Base, if you try the similar "Hey Airman" your only responders will likely be our youngest troops.

Why is that? Are we not all Airmen? Or is it because we "really don't know what that means?" If you are asking yourself those questions, let me offer you a few suggestions.

I am an Airman. I act with truthfulness and honesty. As Airmen, we are entrusted with the greatest calling, protecting our country and our way of life.

Because of our unique profession, we can't pencil-whip training reports, or cover up tech data violations, or falsify documents. We simply can't afford to live dishonestly. Dishonesty breeds mistrust, and mistrust erodes our ability to perform the mission. In everything we do, we must intentionally do it in truthfulness and honesty.

I am an Airman. I willingly sacrifice myself for the benefit of the team. Being part of a team requires self-sacrifice and self-sacrifice must happen at all levels. Performing as a team requires a "less of me and more of us" mindset. We have to give more than what is expected. It's amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets the credit. Being part of a successful team requires sacrifice.

I am an Airman. I care passionately about my fellow Airmen. No other profession calls for compassion than that of a military warrior. As warriors, we underestimate the power of a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. We must promote a culture of reliance on each other in order to accomplish the mission. Without compassion, we will lose trust in our teammates, and the mission will fail. We must care passionately for each other.

I am an Airman. I am accountable for my actions. Individually, we are responsible for upholding the standards. We must live by the concept, "I am responsible." Although we may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, we are responsible for our attitudes and actions. We must reject the idea that every time a standard is broken, someone else is to blame. We must live by the precept that each individual is accountable for their actions.

So I challenge you. Define who you are by your Airmanship. The next time someone calls out, "Hey Airman," stop, turn around and respond. We are all Airmen. Together, let's solve this identity crisis.