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Answering 'The Call'

  • Published
  • By Col. Matt Molineux
  • 6th Operations Group commander
I often ask myself what draws young Americans to join the military and once in the Service, what keeps them there. If we think about it, the vast majority of military members joined after 2001 so most were aware the nation was involved in an extended period of contingency operations and the deployment tempo was high. Therefore, there had to be some factor that kept young citizens signing up. I would suggest these standout Americans have the desire to serve and be a part of something larger than themselves.

In the Air Force, "Service Before Self" is one of the three enduring core values that distinguishes our Airmen, Air Force civilians, and families from the rest.

That intrinsic quality deep in our being that motivates us to perform for our country, improve the processes within our units, and take care of our Wingmen is the fuel for innovation, efficiency and success that will ensure mission accomplishment in the austere fiscal environment we find ourselves in. While I don't suggest anyone in the past knowingly or intentionally wasted resources, it's critical today to find the most efficient way to accomplish our tasks in order to have enough to accomplish the mission.

This isn't a gloomy story about declining resources. This is one of highlighting our greatest military resource -- the people! Do you realize less than 25 percent of America's youth is even "qualified" to join the Air Force? By the time all entrance requirements are met we are down to the precious few -- the highest quality people the nation has to offer entering our Service. They are the top-notch patriots who have that spirit of service and teamwork required to succeed.

When I took command of the 6th Operations Group this summer I asked my Airmen to consider working within a specific priority calculus when approaching their daily tasks. The priority goes like this: nation, Air Force, and unit. We have to prioritize our resources, both time and money, to accomplish the tasks that will attain the nation's priorities first, then those of the Air Force, and finally the unit's. Any task we're asked to do that does not contribute toward accomplishing these priorities is misplaced effort. Notice individual priorities aren't included in these calculations. Is it that individual needs and priorities don't count? Absolutely not.

Leaders at all levels are responsible for taking care of their Airmen and Air Force civilians. Leaders look out for the priorities of those they supervise. Leaders ensure those under their care have the opportunity to develop to their full potential, get further education, and achieve their professional goals. Leadership at all levels --from airman to general -- guided by the spirit of "Service Before Self" is what will guarantee the Air Force's success.

So, when I reflect on the incredible gift of service the young patriots who voluntarily sign up in the Air Force provide, I remind myself to pause to appreciate that special quality that separates them from the rest. They have answered the "Call to Service" -- to contribute to something larger than themselves. I am thankful for their commitment. I am aware of their sacrifice. And above all, I remind myself that their priorities are in my hands.