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I am the Air Force

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- I recently read a letter in the editorial section of the Air Force Times from an individual who didn't plan to reenlist. He listed multiple reasons for making his decision.

Shortly after, I read a response to that letter from the AFTAC Public Affairs officer on why she would reenlist in a heartbeat. Both letters got me thinking about my own career and why I joined, and then stayed in the Air Force.

In fact, it was a topic of discussion at a recent Company Grade Officer Professional Development Course. In short, I joined to get a skill, but I stayed after I realized I am the Air Force.

Like many folks, I was looking for direction, more than 26 years ago, and the Air Force offered that. I intended to join, get a skill and four short years later return to North Carolina and use that skill to set up a good life for myself. I was surprised; however, to find the Air Force offered me much more than just a skill. It offered me a sense of being part of a group of people bigger than myself.

You know the saying, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?" That's what I'm talking about, and I quickly began to feel part of that.

Then, one day it occurred to me. I'm not part of the Air Force, I am the Air Force.

We join groups with the thought of being a member of a bigger organization, but the Air Force isn't anything without us -- the people. With that in mind, we are each the Air Force. Without us, there's nothing.

That change in my attitude also changed my behavior. From that moment on, and it is hard to define exactly when it occurred, I began to think of how my actions might affect the Air Force. I focused on trying to make things better: improve missions, improve people, and in general, improve our Air Force.

Our Air Force isn't for everyone, but everyone who serves, or has served, is the Air Force.

Hopefully you too will feel as I do, and work to keep this the greatest Air Force in the world, and that you find a reason to stay in. I personally would also reenlist in a heartbeat.

I am the Air Force!