No shame in being enlisted

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Howard Teesdale
  • HQ AFSOC/A3 Airfield, Ranges, Airspace
While standing in line at an off-base post office recently, mailing Christmas presents to my family, I overheard a woman talking to a man about her son. Apparently her son had recently enlisted in the Air Force against her better judgment. She told the man, who agreed with her, that commissioning as an officer is the best way to serve because "enlisted Airmen" just aren't respected and are considered second-class. Others who were waiting in line picked up on her conversation the same as I, and unfortunately agreed with her.

The gist of this conversation took me back to my childhood where I grew up as the son of a dedicated, retired enlisted Airman who stubbornly mentored me just before I stepped on the bus at the local military entrance processing station by saying, "Son, stay true to yourself, the Air Force, and remember, no matter what you become, I'm proud of you!"

Well, what I've become is a chief master sergeant-select, which ultimately means I've reached or I'm about to reach the pinnacle of my career. Looking back over the years, the opportunities I've seized, the accomplishments I've made, the accolades I've earned and most importantly, the pride that has overwhelmed me while serving my country as an enlisted Airmen are definitely nothing to be ashamed of.

I have no doubt that what the woman in line at the post office was mainly referring to with whom the others were agreeing, had to do a lot with pay, allowances and a valid perception of prestige when it comes to being a commissioned officer. Let's face it, she's right! But I think what she and the others fail to realize is that today's enlisted Airmen aren't a bunch of rocks. We are doing some fairly amazing things that no others could and or would!

Depending on Air Force specialty, today's enlisted Airman aren't just standing on the frontlines in defense of our great nation. We're leading, advising, coordinating and deciding how to shape the air-battlesphere, which I must remind you, isn't limited to a single dimension.

From ensuring proper placement and orbit of satellites that control and monitor our position, controlling and sequencing an airspace full of multiple weapon systems and platforms, liaising with partners from countless countries in hopes of lessoning our nation's burden and forming lasting peace and friendships, to clearing unexploded ordnance and roadside bombs to help pave the path of freedom and securing the base perimeter from unauthorized entry while simultaneously protecting our freedom of movement. And we cannot forget those enlisted Airmen who embed themselves in obscure and unsafe locations to direct the weapons fire of overhead aircraft, prep unimaginable landing strips for aircraft to infiltrate cargo and personnel and ready a landing zone for the extrication of the injured and at times mortally wounded. We leave no Airman behind!

Although I stood quietly in line that day, my thoughts and pride of being enlisted Airman were about as high as ever. Knowing that there is more accuracy in the truth about being an enlisted Airman than she and the others in line are led to believe, there is no shame in her son enlisting in the Air Force.

I wish him well.

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