"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering Bravery - Memorial Day

CBS's 60 Minutes published a recent episode which details heroes from military Explosives and Ordinance Disposal (EOD) who risk their lives routinely to identify and dismantle insurgent IEDs. The episode can be viewed here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6533127n&tag=related;photovideo. It depicts the routine bravery of these soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen from the four services who risk themselves to locate and dismantle explosive threats to their fellow Americans. The bravery is staggering. I remember flying missions in Iraq and seeing many IED explosions on the roads below me. They were a routine sighting. On several missions I had the opportunity to destroy them before they could hurt Americans. On of my favorite missions, my crew and I fortunately spied several insurgents laying IEDs in the middle of a road. After several minutes of observation, we ensured they weren't successful and never would be again. It was very satisfying. But it lacked the heroism and the bravery of the soldiers of TF Paladin who meet the threat head on daily, not from thousands of feet above the threat.

The EOD professionals train at the EOD school located on Eglin AFB. In my previous assignment, I passed that school every day. I lived in a mobile home on the base next to the marina located right across from the EOD training facility. It's a beautiful location and I'm sure quite a contrast from the deadly roads in Afghanistan and Iraq. The mobile home park has been closed, but I'm sure the school still stands and is still training American fighting men who are fiercely dedicated to their country and, as the 60 Minutes episode explains, a little bit crazy.

I thank God for these Americans willing to lay it on the line for the rest of us. As an Air Force officer I want my service to provide airpower to make their jobs easier and to ensure they come home safely after the mission is accomplished. No words can properly honor those who sacrifice their mobility, their emotional well being, and their lives for us when requested by their country. We in the Air Force, not in these heroic situations, can best honor them by ensuring our service provides them the very best in airpower.

Andy Rooney made a good comment in the episode. He mentioned something to the effect that it's odd that we expect such bravery in war but not in our every day lives. With all the problems our nation faces and with all of us who don't have to put it on the line in combat like our EOD brothers, let's emulate their bravery in our day to day lives to make our country stronger. Perhaps had the regulators in the Department of the Interior displayed some bravery, perhaps they would have thwarted the comfortable corruption that allowed our Gulf to be destroyed by incompetence and greed. Perhaps a few concerned individuals could have stood up and risked themselves to expose the derivatives and ponzie schemes in corporate America that brought our nation to its financial knees.

Bravery is not something only to be displayed on foreign soil. If we want to honor the memories of those who fought for America, let's not sate ourselves with bumper stickers on our SUVs and flags displayed on our front porches. That's just too easy. Rather, let's emulate the bravery of America's finest by doing the right thing, the risky thing, in our humdrum existences where we don't have to worry about hidden explosive devices.

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