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Warrior Ethos and the United States Air Force

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- It is no secret the Air Force has been the butt of many jokes for years. I haven't been on active duty very long, but I certainly have heard more than my fair share. Even friends at home, who have never served in the military, can't resist taking a shot here and there. Sure, I have laughed at them, but deep down, it is something I'm not all that happy about. After all, I am a military member, I wear the uniform, and I have sworn an oath to the Constitution with my life. Because of all this I have taken a keen interest in the current Warrior Ethos push.

To be honest, I never truly thought of myself as a warrior; perhaps an operator or a pilot, maybe, but a not a warrior. I took my cues from the senior leadership around me. When the Airman's Creed first came out during my cadet years, my instructors and trainers thought it was a joke. Therefore, I thought it was a joke. Warrior Ethos was for the other branches. Safe in my academic world where my biggest worry was a test or a long paper, I was free to mock the concept of Warrior Ethos as well. When I came on active duty, I was knocked down a couple of pegs and my view of the Air Force changed dramatically.

To be a warrior, to see myself as a warfighter first and not just an intelligence officer, network defender or space operator, is at the heart of the ethos. I recently returned from Air and Space Basic Course, where lieutenants learn to be lieutenants. While there, I had the opportunity to learn a variety of lessons from NCOs who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I also was able to interact with senior enlisted personnel who were attending the Senior NCO Academy at Maxwell Air Force Base Gunter Annex, Ala.

These men and women shared stories with me that really changed my perspective. What I thought the Air Force was like was very different from the realities they were telling me. Their deployments were not spent within the relative safety of the base, playing golf and hanging by the pool. They were out there, bringing the fight to the enemy with patrols and convoy duty. Some of them served as interrogators and others policed dangerous areas. They operated in roles traditionally associated with the Army. Hearing these stories really changed what I thought was expected of me.

While I was a cadet, we learned about the history of the Air Force. The problem was, I simply considered it history. I never really made the connection. Former Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. T. Michael Moseley, however, made an excellent point in an article entitled "Warrior Ethos: For All Airman."

"If we don't understand our history, we cannot understand the warfighting contribution that we make," Gen. Moseley wrote. "During World War II, more 8th Air Force Airmen died than the total number of Marines killed in the war, and today a few people look at us as sideline watchers." Hearing this made me really think about the heritage that I now belong too. We should be proud of our history as Airmen and we should be proud of what we bring to the fight.

It is understandable that so many fellow Airmen are resistant to the refocus of attitudes. Years of following the Air Force stereotype have made many around me cynical towards the concept of a Warrior Ethos. However, that mentality must change. We must always remember that we are professionals and warfighters first.

(2nd Lt. John Quinn contributed to this article)