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COMMENTARY: The Title of Airman

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. John V. McDonald, First Sergeant
  • 407th Expeditionary Support Squadron

During my Joint Deployment, I was witness to the United States Marine Corps 244th Birthday Ceremony. Words can’t describe the prodigious feeling that engulfed the crowd of spectators during the event. Senior leaders from all branches were in attendance. We experienced the honor, courage, and commitment which each Marine encompasses. Their core values define how every Marine thinks, acts, and fights. When they sang the oldest official song in the United States Armed Forces, the “Marines’ Hymn” at the position of attention and in unison, it gave me goosebumps. This event and working directly with the Marines, Navy and Army has given me a different perspective on how the other services operate and the values they carry. It made me reflect on our values and the title of Airman.

I have been pondering on the title of Airman and wonder what the populist thinks when they hear that word. Unlike the Air Force, our sister services have titles that describe their service. The title of Marine, Sailor and Soldier is clear. It defines the entire branch but the Air Force also uses Airman as a rank. The USMC doesn’t have a Lance Marine nor does the U.S. Army have a Soldier First Class. Have you ever heard of a Sailor Officer Third Class? When the word Airman is used, especially amongst USAF personnel, it is thought of immediately to imply our junior enlisted. We collectively need to embrace the title of Airman as our identity.

When we transition from recruit to Airman during basic military training, you earn the title and this symbolizes your commencement to the Air Force. In 2007, General T. Michael Moseley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force wrote that one of his "top priorities" was to "reinvigorate the warrior ethos in every Airman of our Total Force.” The Airman’s Creed was established creating a coherent bond between members of the USAF. Stimulated by a proud heritage, tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor, the Airman’s Creed intent is to enhance airmanship and instill this warrior ethos.

The U.S. Air Force has defended this country in air, space and cyberspace throughout a century by American Airmen. From the Doolittle Raid of 1942, which verified that the Japanese mainland was vulnerable to air attack and heighten American morale, to the United States Space Force, a projected space warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces taking a trajectory change to an independent service similar to our Army Air Corps separation. Change is inevitable and there is no better time to embrace the words of our Airman’s Creed, take these declarations to heart and carry the pride of this title earned by the warriors before you.

The title Airman should carry a new meaning, not just a rank structure, but an identity to be passed on from one generation of Airmen to another.