TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – I heard a statistic recently that made me stop and think: Over 80 percent of the Airmen in our Air Force today came into the service after the fateful events of 9/11.
My first thought about this statement was age-related. I joined the Air Force well prior to 2001. I, then, started reflecting about my experiences. I have been stationed all over the world and I have been involved in various conflicts since 1999. Then I realized that when I enlisted in the mid-1990s, I joined the Air Force when there were no conflicts or active aggression against our great nation. Unlike over 80 percent of you, I joined the military in peacetime.
OK, so now you are thinking, “So what? The chief knows war and peace.”
I joined the Air Force right after high school because I did not want to go to college and I needed some direction in my life. Basically, I joined because I needed a J-O-B and the military seemed like a safe option to get me out of the house. For the first couple of years, that was what the Air Force was to me: a job. I came to work, I punched the proverbial time clock and I went home. I was not overly committed to the Air Force.
Over time, though, that mentality started to change for me. I cannot pinpoint the exact moment, but at some point, my views on my service changed from J-O-B to way of life. Was it the increased responsibility or the increased operations tempo? I am not sure. What I do know is that I bought into this very nonstandard way of life and being mission-ready was the only way to be.
The training increased, the deployments increased, the time away from family increased and the uncertainty increased. Life was much different for me than the idyllic, pre-internet time of the mid-1990s.
And then the “over 80 percent statistic” really hit home to me. You joined the military knowing that it was not going to be easy. You joined the service knowing you could get called into harm’s way. You entered the profession of arms in a very uncertain world knowing you were going to be tested.
I know that not all of you will get past the J-O-B phase of service, but you still made the decision to enlist. My hat is off to you for taking that big step knowing all of this.
Finally, Team Travis, I want to say thank you for all that you do. I still love coming to work and serving in the greatest Air Force on the planet.