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What it means to be a first-term Airman in the U.S. Air Force

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- To me, being a first-term Airman in the United States Air Force means you made an honorable commitment. It means that during a time of war you volunteered to give up your day-to-day life and serve your country. Considering we make up only one percent of the American population, each one of us is very significant in continuing America's freedom and liberty.

The foundation of the Air Force is built upon three core values: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. In basic training, military training instructors make sure these values leave a lasting impression for good reason. These core values are important to live by in everything we do. We have to do right even when no one is looking. No matter what your job is, they are all significant in supporting the mission. You cannot cut any corners when you are dealing with multi-million dollar equipment and most importantly, peoples lives. In any military branch, one little mistake or moment of laziness could hurt the mission or end someone's life.

We would not be able to effectively serve our country if we all didn't practice service before self. When we sign the dotted line and swear by the oath of enlistment we are promising to devote our life to the needs of our armed forces in order to serve our country. This means the Air Force comes first over our own personal life. We may not be able to spend the holidays with our family or even see them for a long time. We will have to do things sometimes that greatly inconvenience us. We will have to put our personal lives on hold many times. We will risk our lives to fight for our country. The most important thing is that the mission comes first.

In order to continue being a powerful force we can never get complacent in anything we do. We strive to be the best at what we do. We cannot perform at satisfactory levels, excellence is the key. Without excellence we would not have the best technology, the most advanced aircraft, or highly skilled forces. I learned in order to be a good leader you have to be a good follower first. This is important in obtaining the best knowledge and ability to lead. Whether it is performing your job, maintaining your professional appearance, or striving to better yourself, nothing less than excellence is acceptable.

When I grew up I had high dreams and goals of getting a basketball scholarship to a distinguished university and furthering my education. It didn't seem too hard to accomplish considering I was really good at basketball, had excellent grades, was extremely determined and devoted, and was highly self-disciplined. As the years passed I had some major setbacks that relinquished my dreams and goals. I feel like I had let my family down considering I would have been the first in my family to go to college. I had thought about the Air Force for a long time. As time passed the thought grew on me more and more. I kept thinking about the unity and organization of the military. I also kept thinking about how I wanted to serve my country and fight for something better. As Americans, many people take our freedom and rights for granted. Most people don't realize how good we have it until they go to third-world countries. Freedom doesn't come free, and without the people who have fought in the past and the people who continue to fight today we would not have that freedom. I knew I wanted to be a part of this. I knew I wanted to be a part of fighting for this country so my family, other families, and younger generations can continue to enjoy their freedom.

I'll never forget the day I earned my Airman's coin at the retreat ceremony in basic military training. I remember that as I was saluting the flag during the national anthem, it hit me. At that moment, I grew a deep sense of pride and honor to be serving this great country I love so much and be a part of something big that makes a difference in everyone's life. I knew my family would also feel the same pride as I had, so I knew I hadn't let them down. The Air Force taught me no matter how tough times can get, if you just put your mind to something, strive to be the best, and never give up you can achieve anything. The Air Force helped me regain the confidence in myself I had lost. Being a first-term Airman means I have to learn as much as possible to achieve 100 percent mission effectiveness and one day lead the younger Airmen of tomorrow. In order to do this, I will continue to strive to learn my job to the best of my knowledge and take pride in what I do. I will continue to serve with the best of my ability and honor in the world's greatest Air Force.