Why do we stay

Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Tidwell, 60th Aerial Port Squadron

Commentary by Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Tidwell, 60th Aerial Port Squadron

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. - As chiefs, most of us love the opportunity to talk candidly with Airmen at professional development events.  In my experience, a topic that often comes up in these forums is re-enlistment.  Airmen reach out for advice on how to make this decision and what factors I considered when making this choice throughout my career. 

The answer to this question will certainly vary from chief to chief.  However, for me, it comes down to three important considerations: the values of the organization, its overall sense of purpose and the quality of the organization’s people. Each of these factors weighed heavily in my decision to serve for the last 18 years.     

First and foremost, I am extremely proud to serve in an Air Force that values the individual contribution of every Airman regardless of career field, rank, race, religion, gender or ethnicity. 

As a psychology major, I have studied the lives of the “founders” of psychology.  Many of them were compelled to leave their countries in order to find a place where their contributions to the field would be accepted.  Frequently they originated from places where people could not see past skin color, gender or religious beliefs to see the quality of their work. 

In this organization, we value performance and adherence to clearly understood core values.  Although there are a small number of individuals among us who discriminate for reasons other than performance, our organization strives to eliminate this behavior.  This creates the best possible environment for people to grow and work.

Along with diversity, another import value the Air Force emphasizes is education.  Education is one of the few things that can create “family tree altering” opportunities for all individuals.  Among the world’s militaries, the United States military provides some of the finest technical training, human relations education, professional military education and free university education. Not only does this keep the Air Force on the cutting edge of technology and advancement, it allows Airmen to grow into the very best version of themselves possible. 

Our method of feedback, although not always fully utilized, encourages this same growth.  Supervisors have a responsibility to assist Airmen in setting professional and personal goals.  Further, they need to help them develop a specific plan to accomplish those goals and hold them accountable to their specified objectives. Their role is not to judge or change the member’s goals, but to support and guide them towards achievement. Not many organizations out there invest this kind of time and effort into the personal lives and dreams of their employees.

Every human being has a God-given desire to live a life of purpose. Another key reason I have chosen the Air Force as a way of life is the opportunity to serve a purpose that is larger than myself.

Our nation has the longest surviving Constitution of any nation in history. When we put this uniform on every day, we are supporting the ideals outlined within the United States Constitution. Because of the awesome power of the Air Force, the President of the United States and Congress have tremendous influence with other world leaders when diplomacy fails to bring about the will of our nation. That power also deters nation-state adversaries from attacking our homeland. 

From the most junior Airman basic, to the most senior ranking four-star general, to our civilian employees and our devoted spouses and families; we make this influence and deterrence possible through our selfless service. 

Moreover, while many companies do great things, their employees ultimately work to make a profit on behalf of shareholders.  In the Air Force, we serve in order to protect the way of life of all 318 million citizens of our country and the way of life of many others around the world.  If that is not a life-worthy endeavor, I do not know of one.

The final reason I remain in the Air Force is the people. The people of the past, the ones in my life now and the ones that I will have the pleasure to serve with in the future. People like Staff Sgt. Max, who let me “house-sit” at his house with my entire 5-member family from Alabama on my first Christmas away from home or supervisors like Tech. Sgt. Osborn who didn’t just tell me to get fit, but also trained me in the gym and taught me about life in the military.  People such as Senior Master Sgt. Stickle and Senior Master Sgt. Ackerman challenged me with a job that led to exponential growth. Capt. Raymond-Ventura helped me recover from a string of life tragedies and helped preserve my career in the Air Force.  It was supervisors like Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Jones, who pushed me to read/grow and then wrote great award package nominations that helped my records stand out from my peers. 

It’s because of friends like retired Master Sgt. Singletary who has been among my life’s best friends for the last 10 years.  It is because of Tech. Sgt. Queen and Tech. Sgt. Varley who were my wingmen during the 365 days and 69 rocket attacks in Afghanistan.  It is because of too many friends, supervisors, mentors, and leaders to mention who invested in me. 

They truly invested their time, money, wisdom, love, grace, experience, support, belief, friendship and hope into Joshua Tidwell.  I owe everything I am as a person and as an Airman to God, my family and the people with whom I’ve shared my years of service. 

Now, I serve each day to invest in the lives of others.  My hope is that my name, like the ones above, will be on the list of another Airman who would say I’ve made an indelible mark in their life, during their own journey to find purpose in the United States Air Force. 

So, these are the main reasons I stay.  Yes, the pay, housing allowance, health insurance, travel and all these are good too, but the Air Force is not the only career option that provides strong benefits. 

So, when it comes time to make this decision for you and your family, consider whether continued service is consistent with your values and the values of your family. Whichever path you decide to take in life, ensure you are sufficiently prepared.  Whether you choose the Air Force or the private sector, if you have sufficient financial savings, a solid education and a proven record of performance, opportunities will come your way.  So, if you’ve made it this far into this article, I’d like to ask you, why did you join?  Why do you stay? Or what could we do to make your continued service a reality?  I’d love to hear your answers at Joshua.tidwell@us.af.mil