Am I Serving?

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- As a young Captain, sitting in the "Blue Room" at Squadron Officer School, I had the pleasure of hearing many general officers speak to us on various subjects. One subject in particular has stuck with me over the years and it was a general who talked to my SOS class about service.

He told a story about being a young fighter pilot and an elderly lady he always saw when he returned home for a visit. Every time he saw the lady she would ask him, "How is the service?" He would reply, "Ma'am, the Air Force is just fine." Each and every time he went home, this was the exchange between the two of them.  The general then explained to us that years later he began to understand what the lady was telling him as opposed to asking him. She was telling him that he was in service to others.

Do you know where the word sergeant comes from? Its origin is from the Latin word servient, which literal translation is 'serving.' Therefore, a sergeant in the U. S. Air Force can be translated to 'serving in the U.S. Air Force'.

Many people would not get very excited about the word serving, but I do; especially when it comes to serving in the Air Force. By definition, unless you only serve yourself, it implies selflessness, which is a noble trait. If you think about it: "Service before Self", is merely selflessness. As well, if you are selfless and serve others then there is an inherit element of sacrifice.  For most, that sacrifice is associated with having to answer when called. First sergeants, volunteers, victim advocates, commanders, chaplains, medics and many others cannot say, "Now isn't a good time." Selfless sacrifice is also a very good description for those who die in defense of their nation and those who serve alongside them. Once again, there is nobility associated with service and being in the service. 

In everything you do while you are in the service, a good litmus test before you take action is to ask, "Am I serving?" Some scenarios where the answer is yes would be: furthering the mission, following lawful orders, helping a fellow Airman, and protecting the Air Force's reputation by behaving in a professional manner. Some scenarios where the answer is no would be: sexually or physically assaulting a fellow Airman, walking by a task that needs accomplishing, and any act that damages the reputation of the Air Force or a fellow Airmen who serve in the Air Force. 

In closing, I do not mean to imply that anyone who reads this does not understand what it means to be in the service. My intent is merely to remind you. Words like selflessness, sacrifice, and noble, in my opinion, are in danger of slipping out of vogue in today's culture; therefore, a reminder is a good thing.  As a colonel and a group commander, I often have to remind myself that I am nothing more than a servant. My hope is that you will be as proud of being a servant in the Air Force as I am.