Reflections on change

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The season of transitions is fully upon us.


As I prepare myself and my team for the 60th Surgical Operations Squadron’s change of command at the end of July, I was thinking about life in general, life as an Airman in the United States and how frenetic it can sometimes feel. It struck me that change is really one of the few constants we can count on. This year, our country visibly shift more focus to the Pacific, while our chief of staff has directed us to hone in on full spectrum readiness with a renewed intensity that hasn’t been seen in years. Our Air Force Medical Services will also align more concretely under the Defense Health Agency. We’ll also soon begin to transition to Operational Camouflage Pattern uniforms. 


Keeping steady forward progress while generating the inevitable forward surges required to meet our nation’s needs is a mighty task indeed. Yet our Airmen and our teams rise to the occasion and surge forward, invigorated, day in and day out. We are part of a proud heritage and we are building that legacy each day, no matter how the winds of change buffet us. 


The change in uniform is important and symbolic; It denotes another passing of an era, but, that uniform, no matter the color or patterns, unites us. Links us to each other our past, and our future. There are some constants we can count on in the vicissitudes of life, especially military life, and the military uniform is one of them. 


This line of thought triggered me to look for this powerful essay about the uniform that many of our Airmen may have never seen or heard.  Retired Col. Karen D. Kimmel wrote, “The Uniform of My Country” while she was a captain assigned to the 57th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in the 375th Airlift Wing at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. From 1965 through 1972, the 57th was an AE hub for combat and noncombat casualties coming from Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines, Guam, Japan and all over the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. These words from her essay were part of the common “cadet knowledge” in the contrails at the United States Air Force Academy in the 90’s. Her words provide a solid grounding from which we can embrace the constancy of change as we serve together in the profession of arms.   



The Uniform of my Country


By Retired Col. Karen Dorman Kimmel



Over 200 years ago, the first thread of the uniform I wear was woven. While great men dreamed of a country of free people, the army and navy that would win her liberty had already begun to organize. As the fledgling country grew stronger, so did its uniform develop. Each button and ribbon that has been added through the years boasts of victory at sea, conquests on land and some of military aviation’s greatest successes. The added medals and insignia laud moments of heroism known to us all. I wear the uniform of my country because, as America is a blend of races and cultures, my uniform is a woven, visual history of her people’s courage, determination and unique love of freedom.


Without a word, this uniform also whispers of freezing troops, injured bodies and Americans left forever in foreign fields. It documents every serviceman’s courage, who by accepting this uniform, promises the one gift he truly has to give: his life. I wear my uniform for the heritage of sacrifice it represents and more.


No factor in America’s growth has been greater than the men and women who have worn her uniform to help keep her strong. In war and in peace, they have circled the earth and journeyed to the moon, always carrying America’s ideals with them. Their service to her has been a legend of honor.


I wear my uniform with pride for it represents the greatest nation of free people in the world. America serves as an example of those who strive to be free. They recognize this uniform as standing for millions of Americans who respect their world neighbors and wish to live in peace with them. My uniform is an extension of my people and my nation.


Most importantly, I wear the uniform of my country because others do not. America’s freedom is a right given by God, but defended by man. It is our overwhelming responsibility to preserve our heritage of freedom for all Americans and I accept that challenge willingly.


I wear the uniform of my country because of its history, its heritage of honor, its service to America, its representation of my people and because of my desire to live in a free land.  Hopefully, I wear this uniform in peace. But America’s enemies must know that I will stand fearlessly in war as those before me have stood.


I pray only that I do not stand alone.