CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
In a SmartBrief on Leadership, Eric McNulty wrote, “Principles, unlike rules, give people something unshakable to hold onto yet also the freedom to take independent decisions and actions to move toward a shared objective.”
In our Air National Guard, principles are set in our Core Values and in the Airman’s Creed. The three core values of the United States Air Force (integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do) are the unshakable foundations of our service. Our Airman’s Creed leads us to be faithful to a proud heritage and directs us to be our nation’s “sword and shield, its sentry and avenger.” The creed is written in this order to allow us to remember the sacrifices of our forefathers and to keep us focused on our mission.
Airmen in the Air National Guard have two missions: one for the Nation and one for the State. That heritage is one of “a tradition of honor.” One definition of the word honor is to have a good name, or public esteem. In today’s society we too often hear “John Doe, a member of the National Guard” being arrested for something that brings discredit upon the Air Force and Air National Guard. Our good name and continued readiness training gives the people of this state and nation the ability to trust in us during times of disaster and war.
What is the “legacy of valor” mentioned in the Airman’s Creed? A good example of valor is the history of Brig. Gen. James K. McLaughlin and the 8th Air Force’s bombing raids over Europe during World War II. As an aircrew member, I can imagine the excitement and the fear of the unknown that was going through the minds of the B-17 crews as they departed for their first mission as well as flying through enemy fighters, then anti-aircraft flak, then enemy fighters again and the sheer terror they must have experienced on preparing for their next mission. I’m sure all of them just hoped to complete the 25th mission so they could return home.
During the daylight bombing missions, 300 or more B-17’s crossed the English Channel and entered Hitler’s Fortress Europe. The losses were usually 10 percent or more (10 crewmembers on each aircraft) and the airmen of the 8th Air Force continued to press the mission until the enemy lost their ability to manufacture the instruments of war. From mid-1943 to mid-1945 the Mighty 8th had nearly 50,000 casualties, but the members of the 8th Air Force (Aircrew, Maintainers, Bomb Loaders, Supply Clerks, etc.) would not accept failure. Their tenacity, courage and patriotism are what legends are made of, and defines our legacy.
The “legacy of valor” did not end with World War II, but continued through the Korean War, Vietnam Conflict, Desert Storm, and is continuing today with our fellow Airmen deployed to wherever the mission takes them. At the beginning, I mentioned the two missions of the Guard, and today the Airmen of the Air National Guard must stand ready to meet any challenge that comes their way, both foreign and domestic. We must strive to be Wingmen in the sense that we watch after and direct our fellow Airmen and friends to do the right thing. When you are called upon to lead, you must do so.
As warriors in the Air National Guard our struggle or conflict may not be in a far off land, our struggle may be to find a way to provide drinking water to tens of thousands of people, or to rescue families from a flooded hollow and provide them with shelter and food.
The Core Values and Airman’s Creed are our guiding principles that helps to focus us on all our missions as wingmen, leaders and warriors. Stand by these principles, remember our legacy and focus on our future. If we accomplish all this then truly “Nothing can stop the U.S. Air Force!”