Uncomfortable commitment: Chief provides perspective

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- All of us who serve this great nation has made a commitment to serve something greater than ourselves. For the enlisted forces, this commitment starts with the Oath of Enlistment which signifies and confirms our intentions.

As an all-volunteer force, we take this oath free from prejudice and of our own free will. Many times over my career, I have heard that you volunteer once (take the oath) and do what you are told after that. Have you heard that before? Although it sounds harsh, I think there is a deeper meaning than just doing what you are told. 

I believe the significance is that you have made a deliberate commitment to do what needs to be done to support and defend the constitution and ensure the success of our mission. Many times in your career you may be asked to do something you don't really want to do, but that task could make you a better person, a better leader, or a better follower, and will contribute to the success of the mission.

Speaking from my own past, many years ago I was asked to become an Air Education Training Command instructor. Did I want to do it? No. I was comfortable where I was on the flight line fixing aircraft, and public speaking was not on my top 10 list of things I wanted to do.  However, the Air Force needed me to become an instructor, so I made the commitment to devote myself to help the team achieve mission success. As a side note, my tour as an instructor dramatically changed my life and without a doubt made me a better person, leader, and follower.

Our commitment starts with the Oath of Enlistment.  Having a genuine understanding of what the oath really stands for can put a lot into perspective. So, let's examine the oath:

"I (name) do solemnly swear, (or affirm) is a statement made in public where you are voluntarily accepting responsibility for your actions and that you are pledging to this in your own words.

"That I will support and defend the constitution of the United States" does not mean you are swearing your support to the country, the flag, a particular service or even the president.  What it means is that you are swearing to support the constitution, which symbolizes all of our freedoms, rights and privileges as a nation.

"Against all enemies foreign and domestic" means you must always be prepared for current and future operations both abroad and at home. The recent tragedy in Tennessee on July 16, 2015, and the loss of four Marines and one Sailor in a domestic terrorist act should remind us of the dangers and sacrifices of being part of our military organization.

"That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same" is an active decision on your part where you are not delegating your obligations.  This voluntary decision was yours alone to make.

"And that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States; and the orders of the officers appointed over me," simply means you must respect your senior leaders and you will follow and conform to all legal orders given by them. Following orders and maintaining standards is what makes our profession of arms the best in the world.

"According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice" again, means you have willingly agreed to live by a set of military rules and regulations. Remember these rules and regulations are not there to make your life miserable, but exist to maintain good order and discipline, which is vital in our profession.

"So help me God (optional)" Whether you believe in God, or your faith is in another religion, this signifies your trust and commitment to a higher being or organization to aid with ensuring your own integrity and honesty.

Our commitment to our profession of arms starts with the Oath of Enlistment. It must be the foundation that guides us through our first enlistment and any re-enlistments. Understanding that once you have voluntarily made this commitment, you must be willing to make sacrifices and do things you may not necessarily want to do.  This will ensure your dedication and perseverance to achieve mission success. Also, realize your commitment and sacrifices will undoubtedly make you a better person, leader and follower.

Thank you for what you do! Aim High, Fly, Fight, and Win.