As Air Force ambassadors we must be good neighbors

  • Published
  • By Col. Greg Touhill
  • 81st Training Wing commander
Where are you from? I get asked that all the time as I represent the wing at functions on- and off-base.

What do you do for a living? I get asked that, too.

How would you answer those questions? The best answer is that I'm an Airman from Keesler Air Force Base.

We're all Airmen

When asked what they do for a living, most folks cite their occupational specialty, but that's the wrong answer. We're Airmen who serve our great country at Keesler. It doesn't matter whether we're young students learning a new trade in our world-class 81st Training and Medical Groups, permanent party military members assigned throughout the wing or one of our great civilian employees who provide the vital continuity we need ... we're all Airmen.

People outside the gates don't identify us with an occupational specialty.. They identify us as Airmen from Keesler. That's why it's important for us -- all of us -- to remember we're Air Force ambassadors everywhere we go, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We're fortunate to have such great support on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This is due in part to our strong presence off-base, where our permanent party and civilian personnel are active members in the schools, churches and civic activities. Keesler Airmen are a huge part of the community.

Being good neighbors

However, we garner the most support when volunteers from Keesler are seen lending a hand in whatever needs to be done. Whether it's debris cleanup, working a booth at a fish fry or providing an honor guard to enhance a ceremony, the sight of our Airmen tells the Mississippi Gulf Coast we're here as good neighbors, ready to help.

The fact that our military members are a very visible part of this community means even when we aren't involved in helping out, we're still responsible for the image we project. Being an Air Force ambassador means even when we're at the mall, in a restaurant or standing at a bus stop, we're saying, as big as any billboard, "I'm the Air Force" to anyone passing by. When you realize this, being a good neighbor is quite a responsibility, requiring us to behave in an exemplary manner at all times.

The way to make sure we're fulfilling our role as good neighbors and Air Force ambassadors in the coast community is to keep in mind everything we do reflects upon our service. Make sure you dress appropriately when off-base -- neatly-pressed duds always give a great impression. A pleasant and courteous demeanor is always noticed.
Allow only the best

So is loud and vulgar language. Don't tolerate anything but the best from yourselves or your buddies. Refrain from hanging out in front of businesses smoking and carrying on, flicking your used butts into the gutter. I bet your mom wouldn't be proud of you, and your fellow Americans aren't either.

For goodness sake, don't litter -- nothing gives a worse impression to our civilian neighbors than someone who doesn't respect public spaces. If you see litter, pick it up and dispose of it properly. Why? Because this is now your community -- one you've sworn your lives to protect.

Practice core values

We all know our core values by heart: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. They're in place as a compass for our behavior. The practice of our Air Force core values doesn't stop outside our gates. Our good relations with the community depend on you and me practicing these core values every day, all day.

Whether you're off-base for an afternoon of shopping or on your way home for the holidays, people are watching you, and when they do, you represent the entire Air Force and the best our country has to offer. Make us proud.