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Working vs. serving: an important difference

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Parnel Scalambrino
  • 60th Dental Squadron

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Every military member takes an oath.  Among other things, this oath verbally confirms that each of us will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  This is not merely an occupation, this is a service commitment that requires true dedication and sacrifice.  

I have a brother-in-arms, Senior Master Sgt. Peter “KC” Smith, who will retire this June after 26 years in the Air Force.  He has given his heart and soul to his Airmen and nation.  He will leave behind an outstanding legacy of integrity, excellence and service before self.  He shared some insight years ago that I’ll never forget.

Smith once said, “We are blessed to have the opportunity to serve our nation.”  At that time, I had seven years in the Air Force and was planning for the possibility of separating when my enlistment expired.  Like many other Airmen, I joined to learn a skill, complete a degree and travel the world.

But Smith’s words resonated with me. “Blessed to serve.”  It was then and there I started to see my position, rank and career field not as “working for” the Air Force but “serving” the Air Force.  His words significantly changed my perspective. It was no longer about me and what I could get from the Air Force. There was much more to my oath and service commitment than I originally thought.

When I talk about serving the Air Force, two main things come to mind: duty and loyalty. Duty to serve is the commitment to make necessary sacrifices to accomplish the mission.  Moreover, duty to serve is about how we dedicate a prescribed amount of time, energy and effort to fulfill our nation’s goals and objectives while preserving a healthy balance to meet personal needs, all to the best of our ability.

Second, loyalty to serve is a commitment to the success and preservation of our force. Loyalty motivates us to help others, to lead, guide and mentor Airmen to achieve what they define as success and ultimately help our nation win wars, directly contributing to something much greater than ourselves.

Fast forward to today, after 20 years of serving the Air Force, I see the difference this perspective has made; commitment to duty comes easy and a resolute mindset of loyalty and being “all in” is now second nature.  This perspective is not a result of reaching 20 years in service, but a byproduct of fulfilling my call to serve.  This perspective has allowed me to see, in part, my purpose in life.

Additionally, I mirror this perspective and purpose with a friend of mine, a quiet hero whose life defines the words “service commitment:” retired Chief Master Sgt. Salvatore DiMarco. DiMarco faithfully served 30 years on active duty and has continued to serve as a volunteer for an additional 30 years.  When you have the privilege to meet and talk with him, you can tell that DiMarco is motivated by duty and loyalty.

To this day, he continually makes sacrifices to serve his nation.  He volunteers at David Grant USAF Medical Center three days a week. Not because he has to, but because he loves to contribute to something greater than himself. DiMarco doesn’t need any fanfare, praise or even the spotlight.  He quietly serves with true commitment and dedication. He has and always will consider it a “blessing to serve.”

Both Smith and DiMarco have personified the core value of service before self. They have dedicated their lives to the service of our nation. These two great examples of service can rest knowing that they made an impact and left a lasting legacy for our Air Force.

The challenge: contemplate your perspective, don’t look at your service commitment as “working for” the Air Force, but “serving” the Air Force. It is a blessing and privilege to serve this great nation. I encourage you to remember why we do and what we do. Recommit today to serve and serve with all you have.  It’s called a “service commitment” for a reason.