Warriors vital in workplace, not just battlefield

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Joel Shepherd
  • 333rd Training Squadron first sergeant
In "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century," award-winning New York Times columnist and author Thomas Friedman observes, "Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must out-run the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better start running."

In this African proverb, I see a stark relationship between our Airmen's drive to run with a warrior ethos and the success of our Air Force. I see many Airmen at all levels struggle with the warrior ethos concept, and I'm not sure they understand its intent and purpose.

The redundancy of our routine administrative duties, curriculum development, podium time and management struggles make it easy for us to undermine this warrior ethos concept. Sometimes it's portrayed as something you only need in combat. As Airmen, we need to remember that our daily operations, in conjunction with our warrior ethos, have a direct impact on the future of our Air Force.

Our embodiment of this ethos or spirit enables us to become better followers, leaders and producers. A direct understanding of a warrior ethos doesn't only come with a bloody bayonet or a bomb dropped on a target. It's not the kills under your belt that characterize you as a warrior; it's the characteristics of the warrior that give you this priceless ethos.

Picture a warrior in your mind, fictional or non-fictional. What characteristics or traits do they possess that make them come to mind? They probably possess character traits such as pride, discipline, resiliency, courage, self-sacrifice, expertise and strength.

Two iconic warriors possessed these same traits, yet they never held a bloody bayonet or dropped a bomb on a target -- Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Gandhi had the courage and selfsacrifice to take on an entire empire as he battled discrimination and poverty to win India's independence without raising a finger.

King had the discipline to stand fast when others literally spit in his face and threw rocks at him. He had the expertise and resiliency to write his famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail" while locked up behind bars.

Much like them, we have our own challenges. Our ability to overcome these challenges is fueled by these warrior ethos characteristics.

These characteristics are seen in our Airmen's daily operations and actions. We don't always recognize these characteristics when we see them.

For example, our pride is evident when our technical school instructors educate their students and stamp them as fully-functional weapon platforms upon graduation. Our discipline surfaces as we enforce standards and breed the next generation of warriors, instilled with the discipline required to be operationally effective. The expertise of our craft is present as our Airmen spend countless off-duty hours in lesson preparation and curriculum development to ensure the students receive the best possible product. Our resilience is shown through the wing support groups as they continuously work through daily challenges despite limited resources and manning. Our courage shines when we do the right thing, the hard thing; despite its lack of popularity among our co-workers.

Our Airmen and their families practice self-sacrifice when they are tasked to deploy; without question they sacrifice the things most dear to their hearts. The strength of our Airmen shimmers in heir pursuit of off-duty education, excellent fitness scores and community involvement as they refine their mind, body, and soul. Yes, these characteristics are embedded and make up the Air Force Warrior Ethos.

It doesn't matter if we're lions or gazelles. What matters is that we never stop running to be the best that we can possibly be every single day by learning and embodying the characteristics of the warrior ethos. The future of our Air Force is born and bred with this warrior ethos and depends on our determination and boundless efforts. Thanks for serving and thanks for leading.