Command Chief: Airmen with a capital A

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Layton Clark
  • 4th Fighter Wing
What do we call a person who drives trucks in the Marines, regardless of rank or position? No, this isn't a joke. 

You call them a Marine. 

Every Marine is trained and ready to perform as a member or leader of a rifle platoon.
What do we call a food service specialist in the Army? This isn't a joke or a trick question either. 

You call them a Soldier. 

Each one, when mated with a rifle, can still operate a checkpoint, initiate a challenge, pass a sign or countersign, and perform either independently or as part of a maneuver unit. 

What am I getting at? What do you call someone in the Air Force that pumps fuel, loads an aircraft's weapon stations, secures a base, launches an aircraft or flies a plane? 

By habit, we don't call ourselves a collective title like our sister services, but I submit to you that when in the framework of an Airman's warrior ethos, we should. 

The last year I spent in Iraq was a highlight of my career. I saw how our Air Force and our Airmen (that's Airmen with a capital "A") pulled their weight, some sacrificing their lives in the venture. 

The fact that no one flies against us right now in the Middle East is a testament to our establishment of air dominance for more than 16 years in that region. Airmen should also be proud of the contributions made in the Global War on Terror and accomplishments made possible within Southwest Asia through the appropriate and innovative application of forward-based combat. This is the first time in modern history that we have operated as far forward and as close to the ground troops of the other services. We are learning a great deal from each other and many new cutting-edge capabilities are emerging from it. 

We are doing so well, we make it look too easy. Our weapons systems are so precise, we can deliver ordnance anywhere, any time. If fact, if ground troops chase the enemy into a house, our aircraft can drop a bomb that eradicates one mud hut, while leaving all the others in the neighborhood standing. 

Right now our expeditionary AF is engaged in a joint war around the globe against an elusive enemy. We assist our sister services in the Army and Marine Corps with their missions. The Air Force has more than 28,000 deployed Airmen providing combat forces, running aerial ports, conducting aerial refueling, guiding satellites and conducting special-operations missions. We also have more than 200,000 Airmen providing space and airlift support to the warfighter at locations around the world. 

I like to remind my sister service that their ships, patrols, missiles, surveillance systems and bombs don't get their waypoints from Army or Navy satellites. In addition to this we are being increasingly asked to help out our Army brothers and sisters complete missions within their skill sets and core competencies. 

We are running convoys, patrolling, rebuilding, training police and Soldiers, supporting trials and nation building and eliminating improvised explosive devices all over of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

We are doing these jobs magnificently, and our performance points out that when you properly train, equip, organize and lead our Airmen for a task, they will do it marvelously. 

I was often told by my counterparts in other services who had Airmen assigned to their tactical control that they were the best servicemembers they had. 

My former commander was once told by a transportation battalion commander that the Air Force guntruckers were the best "Soldiers" he had in the battalion. 

My boss said, "That's because they are Airmen." 

This was a point we made many times that year in Iraq. 

Unfortunately, Airmen often don't assert that they are Airmen. 

Why is that? 

The battlespace In Iraq and Afghanistan would be unmanageable without our skills and professionalism. 

I am an Airman with a capital "A." I am prepared to defeat our enemies and I am proud of all that our Airmen have done in this war and past wars. No matter what your specialty is, I want you to understand that to be considered an Airman, you have to strive to be the best Airman you can be. You have to be physically, emotionally and professionally fit and trained to be able to endure the wide ranging conditions and threats we face today. You have to be disciplined and willing to maintain your readiness to go wherever our enemy confronts us and to live up to the ideals of the Core Values of Integrity, Service and Excellence. You have to be able to understand what part you play in America's defense. 

As an Airman, you have to bring airpower to the battlespace effectively and ensure it is properly applied. 

Your charge as an Airman of the 4th Fighter Wing is to deliver "combat airpower, on target, on time for America, or more simply, "put warheads on foreheads."