I am an American Airman… too!

  • Published
  • By Steven Rose
  • 721st Mission Support Group and Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director
A large copy of the Airman's Creed is mounted on a door in my office. A previous commander prominently displayed it to remind the officers and enlisted in our group of the core principles that guide their service to our Air Force and our country. It's positioned in a way that I have looked at the Airman's creed every day I've sat at my desk here at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, and it resonates now that this Creed is mine as well. As a civilian in the U.S. Air Force, I too am an American Airman.

About 20 years ago I deployed as a new GS-12 to Tuzla, Bosnia. Frankly, at that time in history, I didn't know that was possible or even legal. I believed that I had to be a member of the 'uniformed' service to go into a war zone. Reflecting back on history, a lot of the perception of civilian service in the military dates back to the Cold War. Our military construct was predicated on loading up our uniformed members on planes and sending them into the Fulda Gap to stop the Soviet hordes while the civilians stayed home. Civilians were tasked to mobilize the industrial base of our nation, push supplies and sustainment to the "troops" at the front and maintain our home station bases, almost solely hired in support and administrative roles. But that has now changed.

In fact, as I deployed in 1995, we were in the middle of an evolution of military affairs. As we see today, there is no "front," the missions and threats are global, including inside our own borders, and the role of civilians has substantially changed. Today, your civilian wingmen here at Peterson are deploying side by side with our military counterparts. In 2014 and 2015, nine Team Pete civilians have, or will, deploy to the Central Command area of responsibility. Civilians from across Team Pete are serving on deployments.

And it's not just deployments where we've seen this evolution in civilian service. Across the Air Force the traditional roles, responsibilities and contingency taskings that were previously seen as fenced to uniformed, UCMJ members are now being shared or realigned to civilian members. For example, in 2012, the 721st Civil Engineer Squadron here at CMAFS stood up as an all civilian squadron with a civilian commander, properly known as a civilian leader. And the most important thing to remember about this key shift is that these civilians are running a squadron with a critical, in-place, wartime mission. Their key responsibilities support any contingency that requires national command authorities to use Cheyenne Mountain. Almost 200 civilians across the 21st Space Wing are assigned as key emergency essential and stand ready to respond to our nation's call in emergency situations.

"My Nation's Sword and Shield, its Sentry and Avenger. I defend my Country with my Life." Think of the civilian police and guards at the front gate or patrolling command facilities protecting us from terrorists. Think of the civilians on ready alert to man watch positions at radar sites and command and control facilities watching and defending against threats worldwide.

"I am Faithful to a Proud Heritage, a Tradition of Honor, and Legacy of Valor." Think of the civilian firefighters at Waldo Canyon and Black Forest. Think of the engineers that have maintained generators and blast doors in ready status at Cheyenne Mountain for almost 50 years. Think of the civilians that deployed to Super Storm Sandy in major Defense Support to Civil Authorities efforts.

If you have ever attended an Air Force officer's promotion ceremony, an enlistment or a commissioning, the following should sound familiar: "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

What most people may not know is that this is, in fact, the civilian employee oath of office that every Air Force civilian takes. When I took this oath..."I answered my Nation's Call."

There are many ways to serve our country, our military and our Air Force. So next time you hear phrases like "support your military," or "take care of your wingman" don't just focus on the uniform. Some American Airmen wear blue jeans and hard hats.