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Renewing our commitment

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Chief Master Sgt. Richard Turcotte, 314th Airlift Wing command chief, and I had the opportunity to review the Basic Military Training graduation at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, April 24. I had not previously had the opportunity to witness the accession of the world's greatest Airmen, and I was impressed by their professionalism, enthusiasm and the proud excitement of their family and friends in attendance. We often become "professionally jaded" over time and it is instructive to look at our youngest Airmen for inspiration and to rekindle our commitment to our nation and Air Force.

Our newest Airmen marched in front of over 4,000 American citizens. We all need the support of others to be successful and these families and friends provided the foundation, values, and during BMT, some much-needed encouragement to the graduates. We often become cynical when our focus is on us instead of the American people, family and our fellow Airmen who support us. We get caught up in our comparisons to others who got a better deal, a better assignment or received an accolade that we felt we deserved. This is a slippery slope which runs counter to our core value of service before self and selfishly ignores the many people who support us - the American people we serve.

On their march by the reviewing stand, our Airmen passed by a "walk of honor," which memorializes the heroes who gave our Air Force a legacy of valor. In our daily grind, we often forget that our path was paved by the exertions of audacious patriots who believed that cloth covered air machines could be decisive in warfare and serve as our nation's shield. The graduates heard about Lt. Ray Knight who earned the Medal of Honor in the skies over northern Italy exactly 65 years ago in World War II. Just as our newest Airmen start their careers by remembering the past, we should remember that we share the title of Airmen with millions who sacrificed and served so that we have the world's greatest Air Force.

At the end of the ceremony, our Airmen took the oath of enlistment signifying their transition from civilian to professional Airmen, from the ranks of the defended to the responsibility of the defender. Our military's basic mission is the defense of our great republic. As I looked at the faces of our newest warriors, it was evident they understood the commitment and service required of them to fly fight and win, and they were eager to join our ranks in the cause of freedom. It is up to us to provide the leadership and develop this next generation of Airmen who will be entrusted with our Air Force, its legacy and mission.

I left the BMT graduation with a renewed sense of commitment. I would encourage each Airman at Little Rock AFB to think about their initial enlistment or commission and renew their commitment to selfless service.