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It’s awesome and it matters, but don’t take my word for it

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Joseph Kramer
  • 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron

This tour has provided me some different insights than I’ve gained on earlier deployments. Previously, I flew the line and led the tactics shop focusing almost solely on my Air Force Specialty Code. I was accomplishing my role in the production and employment of airpower or the mission (a.k.a. the mish). During this deployment, as commander of the Best Damn Combat Squadron in the World, associated with the Best AMU, and aligned under CENTCOM’s largest Air Expeditionary Wing - the Grand Slam Wing - I’ve been assigned to take part in several distinguished visitor (DV) tours and media engagements. While the two audiences are distinct, and the questions each group asks are for different purposes, when the tour or engagement is complete the response of the visitors has been the same, every time. I thought I might share these insights.

Each DV or media expert I’ve encountered is in awe of your accomplishments. At the beginning of most conversations, the visitors listen intently to numbers of weapons employed, fuel received, and sorties flown; but after the conversations and the completion of each tour, they end up displaying a sense of dignified humility toward those directly producing and employing airpower every day: airmen, NCOs, and CGOs. There is a raw response of astonishment and then self-recognition by each visitor that they just experienced, firsthand, what makes our Air Force the best in the world. Notice, I didn’t say the visitors are awed by the airplane, or for that matter, the tool, bus, stethoscope, truck, spoon, or other piece of equipment you use. They are awed in that "You [379 AEW], do that, every day?"

While awesome, why is what you do so important? A recent Associated Press article dubbed this installation as the "regional nerve center" employing airpower in support of the anti-ISIL coalition. I’ll take it a step further: the Airmen of Al Udeid Air Base are the nerve center for airpower beyond the region. Al Udeid produces airpower that eliminates enemies of freedom in this region through direct effects, mobility, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and command and control, but the 379 AEW also supports and produces airpower world-wide. Did you know that Al Udeid recently supported the arrival and departure of search and rescue teams on their way to Nepal in support of recovery effort from the recent earthquake? The responsiveness of airpower is awesome.

"You’re the best in the world." We often hear this proclaimed by our senior leaders or on AFN commercials. It is easy to discount the compliment, or be humble and say, "I’m only doing my job," but this is what makes you special: your constant commitment to the mish. As you pour sweat, tears, and sometimes, blood into the airpower business, I thought you might like to know that your accomplishments are also repeatedly recognized beyond the Blue. My interaction this deployment with DVs and media reinforces what our senior leaders are telling us, what you’re doing is truly special.

As the heat rises at Al Udeid, remember you’re part of an awesome team with an important purpose. Your direct contribution to accomplishment of our nation’s strategic objectives might never become greater than it is on this deployment. Take a moment and look around. It’s dusty, it’s hot, but what you accomplish is awesome: Airpower.