566th IS' role as Airmen

Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. -- As Airmen in a joint and combined work center, the 566th Intelligence Squadron members of Team Buckley often face situations that are unusual to an Air Force-only environment. We often find ourselves working with and for members of the other services and national agency civilians.

However, as unique as these challenges are, our calling as Airmen is still paramount. As I've discovered, these organizations don't want us because we are a body pool or because we're civilians in uniform, but because we bring a unique perspective to the fight from our worldview as Airmen. In the end, this means we still have to work just as hard as everyone else to understand and live our core values and competencies even though, and perhaps especially so, this means working for two chains of authority -- the operational chain and the Air Force chain.

This means we have to do more than the daily job of our national agency billet. First, we continually focus upon the "whole person." This is really tough in today's environment where we never have enough people to do what we know needs to be done. So, even though we work long hours at our desk, the "big Air Force" still expects us to excel off-duty. I'm not sure how this concept gained so much traction, but it certainly resonates today.

A few of us who've been alive longer than "big hair" and disco can still remember the contempt that some Americans held for the military, and unfortunately, this wasn't unique to just the 70s. But, as opinion poll after opinion poll shows, today's Americans hold the Air Force and our sister services in high regard. In a democratic society, our continued success depends upon American citizens and leaders respecting our sacrifices, and playing a visible role in our local communities. Constantly striving to improve ourselves has gone a long way towards gaining and maintaining that respect.

We also have to focus on the additional duties and administrivia that weigh us down with more work. As frustrating as these jobs are, they are a necessary part towards making us a winning Air Force. We didn't use to have such positions as physical training leaders, suicide awareness or unit deployment monitors, but we also didn't need them to fight the Soviet bear. We need them now because they are all a part of making us Airmen for today's Air Force, not yesterday's Air Force. These jobs mean more responsibilities, but they are essential to winning today's wars.

Finally, all of the above doesn't automatically make us Airmen. Neither does graduation from Basic Military Training, Reserve Officer Training Corps, the Air Force Academy or even Professional Military Education. Being an Airman requires a constant effort to maintain standards, physical fitness and study, such as we see in the Professional Development Guide and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force reading list. The PDG states, "...in a very fundamental way, serving as a military member represents a special calling." In other words, as a profession, we must constantly improve our education, our training and ourselves.

All of us entered an Air Force with higher educational standards than our parents' and grandparents', and it won't get any easier. It's especially tough for those of us working on a shift to complete that bachelor's or master's degree, but today's environment makes it essential. Ultimately, the calling of being an Airman has to come from within.

We can't expect that our enemies will make it easy for us to "fly, fight and win," so we've got to make that decision to become the best Airman we can be right now. We made that decision when we took our oaths of service, but we still need to continue to make that decision every single day. Our family, our friends and our nation are worth it. 

(Note: The 566th Intelligence Squadron is a unit of the 544th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, and the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, headquartered at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland)