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Profession of Arms

  • Published
  • By Maj. Rob Ryder
  • 6th Air Maintenance Squadron commander
As I was debating what I wanted to write about, I reflected on my first year in command and thought about what stood out to me most. One question that seemed to resonate as I often find myself asking folks is "do you think that what you do is just a job?" I often use this question as a lead-in to try and articulate to Airmen, particularly maintainers, how their work translates into generating combat airpower. Today, I pose a similar question; why is serving in the military not "just a job?" The answer is simple. I believe it is because we all serve in the Profession of Arms.

  I'm sure many of you have heard the phrase "Profession of Arms" in some forum or venue in your military career. But do you actually know what this means? I think it is essential that all Airmen know what the term actually is, and more importantly, what it stands for. If you Google it, you will find a host of topics and discussions of what people think or feel it means to them. However, while Webster's dictionary doesn't recognize the term as a whole, it does define the word Profession. It lists several meanings, but I found the most pertinent ones listed were "(a) a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation (b) a principal calling, vocation, or employment and (c) the whole body of persons engaged in a calling." From those three definitions, you can quickly see that the word "calling" is the common theme. Understanding that serving in the U.S. military is a calling gets to the point that we are an all-volunteer force. More importantly, we all take an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and we place our mission and the welfare of our fellow Airmen ahead of ourselves. That calling, in its purest essence, is what makes us Airmen and dedicated to serving in the Profession of Arms. I think Retired Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman, former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, summed it up best as saying "We are not engaged in just an-other job; we are practitioners of the profession of arms. We are entrusted with the security of our nation, the protection of its citizens, and the preservation of its way of life. In this capacity, we serve as guardians of America's future. By its very nature, this responsibility requires us to place the needs of our service and our country before personal concerns."

  Serving in the Profession of Arms requires us as service members to be held to a higher standard than the rest of society as a whole. It is precisely these standards which we must hold ourselves accountable to as we may be asked to put ourselves in harm's way or asked to be involved in the use of lethal force. And to me, this alone is the single most discernible fact that separates and distinguishes what we do from "just a job."