Service before self.
Excellence in all we do.
The Air Force core values are something I've heard more times than I care to admit the past few days. Over Easter weekend, I attended a national conclave in Dallas, Texas for an organization called Silver Wings I am very grateful to be a part of. Silver wings is a professional organization focused primarily on community service, while maintaining a close relationship of support with the United States Air Force. The national conclave is a chance for Silver Wings chapters from across the country to meet and, along with our sister organization, Arnold Air Society, discuss the upcoming year and share ideas. What distinguishes Silver Wings from Arnold Air Society is that it is open to civilians as well as Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) cadets, while Arnold Air is only open to these cadets. Due to this, Silver Wings has the unique opportunity to show civilian support for the military as well as gain unique perspectives since not all members are bonded through a common cadet corps.
While attending the conclave, I had the opportunity to hear from distinguished speakers such as Gwynne Shotwell (COO of SPACEX), Peter Bergen (CNN National Security Analyst), and General Robert Rand (Commander Air Force Global Strike Command). While these speakers were phenomenal, and the knowledge they shared will forever remain near to me, the thing that keeps running through my mind is a question that was posed far too often by my Silver Wings counterparts across the country: “How do we recruit civilians when our student body and staff is not pro military?” This question really began to deflate my spirits as the conclave continued. Personally, I found myself a little more stunned each and every time one of my peers from a different section of the country brought up this point.
How is it that you can be against the military? The very idea of not wanting to support the men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep us safe is so unfathomable to me that I thought they had to be exaggerating the extent of their problem, but they weren’t; these chapters lack a strong civilian presence because not many people on their campus support the military. For most of the weekend, I thought about what could be causing the disconnect between the support for both ROTC and the military I see at Clemson University compared to what is being described at these other schools.
I came up with two reasons which are closely related. The first is that Clemson is historically a military college, and our military history is something the university continues to take pride in, causing our cadet corps to be larger, and the general population’s opinions to be exponentially more positive than these other colleges. The second, and the more vital reason, is that many students are uneducated on what the military actually does besides engage in combat. While combat is obviously vital to the US military’s purpose, many people are unaware of the other services the military provides. Since I spent the past few days working so closely with the United States Air Force, I will focus on this branch of the military for the rest of this article.
The Air Force provides unprecedented security and valuable resources to the United States. For example, the Air Force controls GPS, a system relied on not only in our country, but around the world. On a personal note for college students, the Air Force, and all branches of service, funnel millions of dollars a year into the new generation. They do this through providing ROTC scholarships, by investing in research that will need the best and brightest minds, and by training troops who answer the call for our country. Furthermore, the men and women serving in our Air Force provide invaluable security to our nation not only on the homeland, but also to fellow ground troops in combat. Our Air Force is so good at this job, in fact, that the last American to be killed by an enemy aircraft attack was on April 15, 1953. Clearly, other countries do not have this same fortune. Watch the news for 5 minutes one night, and I guarantee you will see explosions at least once. None of these, however, take place on our soil. America is privileged and blessed to have such courageous men and women give up aspects of their lives to protect the civilians of this great country.
Finally, many people do not understand what they truly mean when they claim to be "anti-military." They are trying to say that they are against conflict and against war, as most people are, but by choosing to direct that towards the people tasked with fighting the wars and settling the conflicts is undermining their sacrifice. Cutting budgets from the military will increase the risk of attack, cut funding to vital research, and take away scholarships from students who need them to pay for their college. The honorable airmen who serve our country respect the three core values of the Air Force and live them every day. Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do. These values are not only something they learn in boot camp, but they become a way of life- a mentality matched by nothing else in our country. The military is not just combat, and they are absolutely crucial to keep the country the safe, free nation it is. I will gladly stand as a member of the college-age generation and declare how honored and motivated I am to work with an organization that directly benefits those who serve. To me, not being pro-military is simply not an option once you truly understand how much the military does for our country and for each of us as individual civilians.