Dragon Corner: be vigilant!

  • Published
  • By Maj. David A. Young
  • 336th Training Squadron commander
Being at a technical training base is one of the most rewarding environments. Airmen have already successfully graduated from Basic Military Training and are gaining those technical skills required to be the future of the world's greatest Air Force. Permanent party have the awesome responsibility not only to train Airmen but also to set the example for Airmen to follow. The impact that permanent party has on this future will only be realized in time. I hope we do not fail this future.

The reason for a training environment is to have a controlled and safe place in order to teach skillsets and make mistakes without the loss of life. The battlefield is not a forgiving place.

To this day, I remember who my drill sergeants were. That is right, I said drill sergeants. Please do not hold it against me, I am prior Army. Drill Sergeant Bingham and Drill Sergeant Spradling - two men that gave their time, effort and energy to teach me Drill and Ceremony, Customs and Courtesies, and other basic skillsets that honed the my warrior ethos. The day my drill sergeants taught us to salute was a grueling day in the hot sun of South Carolina. The amount of times we were ordered "Present Arms" and "Order Arms" were too many to count. They went over the history of the salute, when to salute, and if we were not sure to salute, taught us, "When in doubt, whip it out!"
So why is it that given all this time and effort to teach customs and courtesies, do so many miss the basic one of saluting the NAF, Wing, or Group Commander's vehicles? It is not for lack of effort on behalf of our sergeants in basic training. As I stated before, I remember when my drill sergeants taught me how and when to salute as you probably remember yours.

I offer this simple explanation, it is because we have mentally fallen asleep. The basic warrior ethos - to be vigilant - has checked out.

Recently, I took a tour of a Canadian military vessel that was moored at Pearl Harbor. I had an "in" for this tour, my beautiful bride is Canadian! As we walked the bridge of this logistics vessel, I noticed a small three by five card taped to the window where the lookout would be positioned. The lookout is the individual whose responsibility is to sight, identify and accurately report all objects in their sector to the responsible authority. This three by five card looked as though it was there for a few deployments. The tape was yellowed and the card was somewhat tattered. What was written on that card is what caught my attention. It was just three simple questions that aided the lookout in their duties and helped them to remain vigilant - what if..., what then..., what next... I can just imagine that lookout standing there for hours playing over in his or her mind various scenarios. What if I saw an ice berg? What then would I do? After I did that, what would I do next? Just three simple questions, but those questions, if used, would cause the lookout to execute his or her mission without hesitation.

Our Airman's Creed captures the warrior ethos of vigilance.

"I am an American Airman.
Guardian of Freedom and Justice,
My Nation's Sword and Shield,
Its Sentry and Avenger.
I defend my Country with my Life.
I will never leave an Airman behind,
I will never falter,
And I will not fail!

This concept of vigilance is bred into us at the very beginning of our military service. It is our creed to be on lookout. It is our creed to be our Nation's defenders. It is our creed to be that wingman that stands up for what is right even if we are the lone voice. It is our creed to not waiver or hesitate when faced with adversity or trials. It is our creed to succeed in all that we do. It is our creed that supports our core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

As your fellow wingman, let me encourage all of us to be vigilant, to be mentally awake. If it helps to adapt the concept of asking yourself those three simple questions as you execute your mission, please practice that. I say this for two reasons: one, the battlefield is not the place to learn lessons, and two so we don't incur the wrath of our military training instructors or drill sergeants. I cannot imagine what they would do if they caught me not saluting the commander's car. Let us all hold true to our core values and our creed and execute our mission without hesitation.