AL UDEID AIR BASE, QATAR --
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Air Force, Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.
Welcome to Al Udeid! I’d like to recommend a book that brings our 379th Air Expeditionary Wing’s heritage to life and provides a shining example of the “higher call” we’ve all answered as members of the profession of arms. The book, A Higher Call, by Adam Makos, is a great war story about an amazing interaction between a 379th B-17 crew and a German fighter pilot during World War II.
A Higher Call brings our heritage to life. For starters, as I read this book, I began to recognize names of places on base. This book gives some background on what BPC really stands for, or why the name Kimbolton was chosen for the conference room in the BPC Mall. I also gained an appreciation for the aircraft of WWII and the campaigns they fought in. Most importantly though, I got to know my 379th predecessors. I found the airmen who made up B-17 crews, were much like the airmen I meet around base. Both then and now, the motivations to serve are similar. We are patriots who understand what it means to sacrifice for a greater good. We, like our predecessors in the 379th, go to extraordinary lengths to help other airmen in need. We, like members of the Grand Slam Wing before us, demonstrate the strength of character required as a member of the profession of arms; to bring freedom to people we don’t even know.
A Higher Call provides a positive example of the kind of character required while serving in the profession of arms. An interesting twist though, is the climax of A Higher Call involves a test of character of an enemy fighter pilot. While fighting over the north of Germany, the German fighter pilot intercepts a badly damaged 379th B-17. He only has a few moments to assess the situation and make a decision that will determine the fate of the American crew. The action he decides is what makes this story remarkable, and reflects the code of honor he’d been taught as a young fighter pilot, and even earlier as a child. Here’s an example from his youth, in which the young German airman learns an important lesson about integrity while rebuilding a damaged glider with his father:
Franz’s father dropped in now and then to inspect their progress. When he came to Franz’s work, he looked long and hard at the globs of glue piling up along each seam. Franz stood a few paces back, proudly.
“It’s a little sloppy, don’t you think?” Franz’s father observed.
“I didn’t miss a spot.” Franz promised.
“There’s glue in places that don’t need it,” Franz’s father elaborated.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Franz said, “the fabric will cover it.”
Franz’s father gave him a lesson. “Always do the right thing, even if no one sees it.”
Franz admitted it was sloppy, but he promised, “No one will know it’s there.”
“Fix it.” His father advised, “because you’ll know it’s there.”
As the USAF “Little Blue Book” instructs, character is developed by “consistently practicing these virtues in habits of honorable thought and action, producing an Air Force Professional.” Read the book to see how Franz's childhood lessons carried over to the skies of Europe and how we connect to this part of 379th history. I think you’ll find it helps you appreciate your heritage as a member of the Grand Slam wing, and gain a new perspective on the discipline required as a member of the profession of arms.