A commitment to serve

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jereme Barrett
  • 319th Security Forces Squadron commander
"What are you doing here? Tell me why you are here. If you are not here to win a national championship, you're in the wrong place. You boys are special... There are going to be days when you think you've got no more to give and then you're going to give plenty more. You are going to have pride and class. You are going to be very special. You are going to win the national championship..." - Paul "Bear" Bryant, former University of Alabama head coach with 6 National Championships, 13 Southeast Conference Titles and 323 victories.

While the gridiron and battlefield are sometimes far apart, the necessary qualities of a proven winner in either medium parallel closely. The quote above provides a good starting point from which to consider our subject, service.

Why are you here? Have you asked yourself that question? More importantly, have you found your answer? The reasons we serve are often varied, but just as likely, share a common theme in that they are (or ought to be) about something greater than ourselves. Much like Coach Bryant and the Crimson Tide, we should all be here to win a national championship of our own. And in our case, that has a direct and significant impact on our national security, potentially even our national survival. In our business of war, we are fighting the equivalent of a national championship each and every time we take the field. Fortunately, ours is usually an away game and, while that may impact the logistical challenges we face and increase the complexity, it certainly beats playing on our own home field.

And so we recognize the gravity of our profession, though in the execution of our daily duties, sometimes so mundane and trivial, we forget our place and forget our contribution. Our clarity of purpose blurs and we lose focus on what we really do, and more importantly, why we serve. That why, taken in context with our service, is what truly drives us, what provides the glue that allows our Air Force team to cohere. Lose that focus and risk losing the edge that has propelled American fighting forces to the forefront of military success throughout history. Failing that and we become no more than a band of mercenaries as concerned about our own tail as anything else.

Whether it's patriotism, belonging to something bigger than yourself, the desire to build a better future or some other motivator, you have sworn your life to service. You have made a sacred pact with your fellow countrymen that you will give your life to protect them, to protect our liberty, to keep this great country free. Witness our own Airman's Creed:

"I am an American Airman. Guardian of freedom and justice, my nation's sword and shield, its sentry and avenger. I defend my country with my life."

Interestingly, it's not hard to remember this pledge once game time arrives, the coin has been tossed and we're ready for kickoff. We're ready to take the field then, to give it 110%, to "win one for the Gipper." Of course, so is the enemy - perhaps even more so as they are often fighting for their national survival. It's harder to remember when we're not directly faced by those challenges. As Coach Bryant taught his team, "It's not the will to win that matters - everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters."

That means our dedication to daily service, our will to not only to fight, but to prepare to fight, is the true determinant of success. We tend to forget the importance of preparation. Whether it's a college-level exam, the Air Force Physical Fitness Test, or a convoy through the desert mountains of Afghanistan, our focus on preparation is not so clear the further removed we are from the time and date of execution. While the comical adage of "if you wait until the last minute, it only takes a minute" is true, your performance will mirror your preparation. And, as already mentioned, the impact of such a performance in this profession is inexcusable. Therefore, we must refocus ourselves regularly, must renew our commitment to preparation. We must recall why we serve and remember that our service is not a job, it's a profession. I challenge you to take the initiative and "re-blue" yourselves regularly - and, just as importantly, "re-blue" those around you. In so doing, you will engender your fellow Airmen to achieve more, to reach higher, and to better prepare that we all can achieve success when our own number is next called for our own National Championship.