Every Airman ... an airpower advocate

  • Published
  • By Commentary by Lt. Col. Rick Matton
  • 386th Expeditionary Operations Group deputy commander
The Marines live by the motto "Every Marine ... a rifleman."

This ethos is foremost in the mind of every Marine, young and old. It's a simple motto, but it sums up what the Marine Corps believes as paramount in the employment of their service. Every Marine, no matter what her or her specialty, is a rifleman first.

Today's Airmen have an equal responsibility to express the capabilities of their service. As the Air Force continues to engage throughout the globe, we are assuming what seems to be an ever-expanding mission set. We continue to execute "in-lieu-of" taskings and other non-traditional missions, but we Airmen must always remember what made the Air Force an independent service. This requires "Every Airman...an airpower advocate".

Arguably the most important airpower advocate of all time, Gen. Billy Mitchell, is often referred to as "the father of the modern Air Force". It was largely through his efforts and advocacy that the Air Force became a service independent of the Army. Why was this so important to him and ultimately to our country? The answer is simple: Airpower is most effectively employed by an Airman, one who understands the full capability of this powerful, rapid and unique force.

Today, as in the early days of our Air Force, air power is fundamentally different from land power and sea power. Each has their own place in contingency operations, but only the Air Force can truly deliver effects with strategic-level impact.

Only the Air Force can deny enemy anti-access strategies through the employment of its global attack capability using weapons systems like the B-2 which can take off from Middle America to deliver precision munitions on time, on target in Afghanistan and then return to base in the states. Of course, the B-2 couldn't do this mission without the refueling capability provided by our tanker force. The synergistic capabilities of these weapons systems combine to provide a rapid, powerful, and precise response to any potential enemy action. This strategic capability is an awesome deterrent which keeps the bad guys awake at night.

The Air Force is also unique in its ability to provide rapid global mobility to put "boots on the ground" anywhere in the world through employment of its airlift assets. We've had this capability from the inception of our service as demonstrated during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s. This amazing operation showed the world that we could not only establish an air bridge to provide food and supplies across enemy lines, but that we could sustain that effort for as long as it took to impose our will on the enemy. While the aircraft have modernized since the days of Berlin, the Air Force continues to amaze the world with its ability to provide rapid global mobility. We see examples of that every day here in the deployed environment as C-130s depart from here and go deep into dangerous enemy territory delivering troops and supplies with precision ... all day, every day. We need to step back and admire what we're doing here with absolute awe. We may not realize it, but the rest of the world looks with amazement at what our Air Force is accomplishing. And it all happens because of Airmen like you.

Speaking of Airmen like you, we must carry the air power torch to pass on to the next generation. Our future as an independent service depends on it. As individual Airmen, we need to articulate the distinctive capabilities that the Air Force brings to the fight. This continuing effort to promote "airmindedness" (a term coined by General Mitchell), requires constant vigilance and education. Here are a couple of ways you can enhance your own airmindedness: Constantly educate yourself via Air Force professional military education and professional publications and show your Air Force pride and professionalism by engaging in healthy discussion with our sister service members about what the Air Force brings to the fight.

The next time you feel like expressing your enthusiasm, don't yell "HOOAH", shout "AIM HIGH!" Take pride in your Air Force, and you'll find it to be contagious. The power that our service brings to bear on the enemy is uniquely ours. Let's keep it that way ... be an airpower advocate!