Heritage program instills camaraderie, values

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Darnell Gillie
  • 335th Training Squadron
"I am an American Airman. My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win. I am faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor, and a legacy of valor. I am an American Airman."
This Airman's creed is the sharpest salute to our warfighter-focused culture. To the conviction, character, mindset, spirit and soul we foster in all of our Airmen.

In the 335th Weather Training Flight, we have the unique joint-training opportunity of training not only the world's greatest Airmen, but also the world's greatest Marines and Sailors. We also have the unique opportunity to train international students from various countries.

Our challenge is to produce highly trained, highly motivated weather forecasters for commanders to use in the operational and expeditionary environment. To accomplish this, we start from within. We build them up, instilling core values and a sense of camaraderie and purpose. We educate them on our history, as well as pay tribute to our legacy with weekly heritage projects.

Every week a topic is assigned to each student to research and present the following week. The purpose is not only to inspire, motivate and build camaraderie between Airmen, Sailors and Marines, but also to use this as a platform to build the weather student's confidence in their briefing techniques. We immortalize Medal of Honor recipients, like U.S. Air Force's Airman 1st Class John Levitow, who disregarded his own life to save his air crew. We honor Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone who was a hero in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Basilone was a machine gunner who died defending his platoon even after being ordered to come home from the war. We honor Petty Officer 3rd Class Doris Miller, a Navy cook who couldn't read or write, yet still manned an anti-aircraft machine, gunning down four enemy aircraft during the attack on Pearl Harbor and earning her the Navy Cross.

The heritage program started with one class, expanding to one element, then to one flight and eventually becoming the squadron standard. As an instructor, I have realized these topics light a distinct fire in the students. Service heritage projects not only educate us about the history of our service and sister-services, they are proof to our students that heroism itself is not some profound, illusive, divine characteristic that only the chosen possess. Service heritage projects remind us that it is people like Levitow, Basilone, Miller and you and I who make our military and our nation great. It's our instinct to protect our Wingmen, Sailors and Marines fighting on our left and right that inspires us.

We constantly train, in an effort to meet our objectives and become proficient at our core tasks. That is our mission, but somewhere along the way forgot to inspire. So, if you ever need a little inspiration or a reminder of who we are, come visit the Weather Flight on a Thursday afternoon. You will see students with closed textbooks, wide eyes and open minds, sitting on the edge of their seats talking about the greatness of our military heritage and learning the legacy of our heroes.