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Proudly we hail

By Colonel Rob Huber 2d Maintenance Support Group commander

Since 1973, the United States military has been an all-volunteer force, however, serving in the military is not just a volunteer opportunity; it is both an awesome responsibility and a humbling privilege.

President Barack Obama in his inaugural address January 20, 2009, referred to members of the military as "guardians of liberty" who "embody the spirit of service, a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves."

I concur. In this summer season, many officers are being commissioned, promoted and retired, at all ranks. It is a good opportunity for all of us who wear the uniform to reflect on what being greater than ourselves is and why we do what we do.

Each individual has personal reasons why he/she joined the Air Force to begin with, but you would most certainly find very common themes when asking those who have been in beyond their initial commitment why they have stayed. There are many noble professions that contribute to the well-being of society, but none more basic and essential than a nation's armed forces.

Our nation has just celebrated its 234th birthday, which proves this experiment in democracy has stood the test of time and succeeded. Our military has been sent to every corner of the globe to preserve our freedom and welfare, and ensure our prosperity; as the founding fathers put it, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These "inalienable" rights we enjoy come at a price. The price is a combination of: our nation's resources, contributed by hard-working Americans who pay their taxes, which supports the defense budget; and also the sacrifice of the nation's sons and daughters who leave their homes, families and friends to serve.

I didn't understand it completely when in 1981 the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps recruiting officer Capt. Mike Bofferding talked me into signing up for the free one-hour course to learn something about our nation's Air Force. I understood it better, but not completely when I swore the Oath of Office in 1985. I definitely get it now--to be entrusted with the defense of the nation, in whatever role, from crew chief to a Security Forces "defender", from pilot to a vehicle mechanic; it's an awesome responsibility.

There is no Air Force Specialty Code or no role in a unit that has not been determined through a rigorous process, particularly in today's tight budget and personnel environment, to be essential to the effective functioning of the entire team. It takes the entire Air Force team, alongside our sister services as well as the intelligence community and state department, to stay ahead of those who would do us harm.

Being a member of the Armed Forces comes with the responsibility to constantly strive to be the most competent professional we are capable of becoming individually. There is a statue at the U.S. Air Force Academy with an inscription that reads, "Man's flight through life is sustained by the power of his knowledge." How true. Whether it's through higher education or personal study and on-the-job training, nothing less than the pursuit of excellence is acceptable if we are to maintain our edge on our enemies in future combat. This responsibility comes with the title "Airman."

I have had many titles in 25 years of service, from instructor to commander, and many ranks from lieutenant to colonel, but there is no title I'm more proud to be called than "American Airman." It's an honor to share that title with so many other skilled and selfless professionals who also "proudly hail" from the United States of America.