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Look our future in the eye, support your Wingman

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Culhane
  • 6th Medical Group commander
Imagine more than 550 young Airmen, our nation's most precious resource, dressed in their blues and standing in formation with the hot San Antonio sun beating down, speaking in one proud enthusiastic voice - reciting the Airman's Creed. 

Now our nation's "sword and shield", "sentry and avenger." Beautiful young kids from every state of the Union, from every socio-economic background have come together for various rea¬sons and enlisted with a diversity of hopes and dreams. Now they are one, with a new understanding of what it means to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States." They have learned how integrity, service, and excellence bond together all who serve in Air Force blue. 

A few weeks ago, for the first time in my career, I had the opportunity to attend a Basic Military Training graduation ceremony at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. As I looked into the youthful eyes of those graduating, it was clear I was looking into the future: the future of our Air Force, the future of our nation. I realized the awesome responsibility each of us has to shape that future. Those same Airmen will soon complete tech school and report for duty at our units. From co-workers and first line supervisors, to Squadron and Group Commanders, we all have a critical role in their development and a responsibility to create the environment they have been taught exists throughout our Air Force.
Look at our youngest Airman in the eye and reinforce our core values, celebrate the sacrifices so many of our Airmen and their families make each and every day - whether deployed to dangerous places across the globe, or performing our mission at home station in a resource-constrained environment. We need to share our stories, our personal histories, and the lessons we have all learned with those new to the Air Force, so our young Airmen can grow from our experiences. 

As Wingmen, we all have the duty to create a culture of responsible choices. We must help and support each other, particularly our newest Airmen, in making the right decisions about alcohol, lifestyle, and seeking help when the stresses of a high ops tempo become overwhelming. We must leave no Airman behind. 

First line supervisors, who have the incredible responsibility to vector our newest airmen on both personal and professional levels, must take the lead when developing technical skills through the on-the-job training program as one of their top priorities. Establish high but attainable expectations, hold our young Airmen accountable, reward their success, use their failures as a basis for teaching, remember they are young (that is often their only fault), and be careful not to break their spirit. Look them in the eye and remember when you walked in their shoes; remember those supervisors who had a positive impact on your career, and emulate their behavior. 

Senior NCOs and Commanders, share the heritage you have become part of, you have created. Look our newest Airmen in the eye and encourage them to become part of our heritage, to study and relish the past, to create the future. Regardless of their individual contribution, remember all are serving of their own free will, giving more than we could imagine possible, and that our mission is dependent on the skill set and energy they bring to the fight each and every day. 

Airmen enlist for many reasons. I think they stay because we have created a culture that supports the ideals they are taught at basic training; they stay because they are patriots.
Look into the eyes of the young Airman pictured here - he could be any Airman. But he is my son - Airman First Class Patrick Culhane - and he and the five hundred and fifty Airmen who graduated with him are our future - and our responsibility.