Why I joined the military - why I became an airman

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Richard Burrell
  • 9th Medical Group
I know you've been asked the question, "Why did you join the military?" I have, and just recently thought about my answer.

To be quite frank, my initial reason for joining the military was selfish. I enlisted Aug. 15, 1985, because I was unsure what I wanted to do with my life. I believed the military would provide me a healthy environment in which to decide.

Take a moment and think back about why you joined the military. I'll bet that most people joined for egocentric reasons similar to mine.

Perhaps you joined the military for the educational benefits. Your plan is to serve four to six years, and then go to college on the Montgomery GI Bill when you separate. Maybe your plan is to go to college while in the service, using the benefits of tuition assistance.

Perhaps you joined the service because of the medical benefits offered. You may have been expecting a family and realized how much medical care costs the average American.

Perhaps you joined the service because your father, uncle or mother was in the service. It seemed like a familiar vocation, and you kept up a family tradition of honorable service.

Perhaps you wanted to get out of your old hometown. You may have seen the military as a ticket to help you leave.

Some of you may have been born with a travel bug and wanted to see the world. What better or cheaper way than to join the service and volunteer for overseas duty?

Or perhaps you were seeking job security. You were looking for a stable occupation that offered yearly increases in salary and paid for your training.

Still others may have been given a choice by a judge to "either serve some time or serve your country."

Deciding to join the military and becoming an airman are distinct decisions with very different factors.

When I refer to becoming an airman, I am comparing the internal, conscious commitment to join a common brotherhood and in so doing, forego a commitment to self.

I became an airman because my squadron commander gave me responsibility that exceeded my confidence. He believed I was capable of things that I did not believe I could do. My desire to not let him down motivated me to accept the challenges he proposed.

I became an airman because Air Force values surrounded my daily life. Hardly a day goes by that I don't hear the words integrity, excellence and service before self.

These values are qualities that surround the life of an airman. Even if you do not readily embrace these values, they have a positive impact on you through time and continued exposure.

I am an airman because I began to faithfully attend quarterly awards functions. It is motivating to see so many highly competent and motivated airmen in the wing performing spectacular tasks. Another realization derived from these ceremonies is the strong unified ties we share with the local community.

I am an airman because, whenever invited, I attend airman leadership school graduations. I get to witness a group of young airmen soon to become noncommissioned officers and begin supervisory responsibilities. The guest speakers share theories of leadership and relay personal experiences to motivate and instill a sense of appreciation and patriotism for our country.

Lastly, I am an airman because I've learned to trust my senior leadership. For many years, I was under the false impression that only I could or would take care of me. But I learned that senior enlisted and officer leaders are making decisions that are preparing you to take their place, decisions in your best interest. I know that trusting senior leaders may be hard to do; however, the sense of euphoria, motivation and espirt-de-corps achieved through this trust directly lead to becoming an airman.

We joined the military for a variety of reasons and most were self-serving, but the reason we remain is to be an airman.

When will you become an airman? Are you going to wait until you make master sergeant to realize that integrity is a staple of daily life that can no longer occasionally be ignored? Are you going to wait until you are the commander of a flight to realize that everyone watches your attitudes, behaviors and beliefs?

I encourage you to reflect about our corps and make the mental commitment now. Become an airman in your daily life and begin to enjoy the greatest benefit of serving in the Air Force. (Courtesy of Air Combat Command News Service)