Your service has value

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col.Aaron Steffens
  • 14th Fighter Squadron commander
We live in a "me first" culture. Although crises like 9/11 can bring Americans together to rally around national imperatives, many of our countrymen live their daily lives focused on "looking out for number one."

Your service -- to your unit, to Misawa Air Base and to your country -- sets you apart from this crowd. Don't misunderstand me, it doesn't make you better (we should never think ourselves superior to the public we serve), rather it adds value to your life.

Almost exactly 50 years ago, a then-young president named Kennedy said this at his inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." You volunteered to serve your fellow Americans. That's why you're here in northern Japan, and as a consequence, you endure separation from your family and friends in the States, frequent deployments, long work hours and a requirement to do your duty under potentially dire circumstances. Your response to your country's calling makes the world more secure and makes your life richer and more fulfilling.

A previous wing commander used to brag that you can tune in Russian AM radio stations here at Misawa. He wasn't a big fan of Russian pop tunes (or maybe he was); his point was that our base is the only one in Defense Department that is roughly equidistant to Russia, China and North Korea. Misawa is a hugely strategic spot on the planet. The airpower that you support here everyday provides deterrence and stability to this part of Asia.

The U.S. Navy has a new slogan that I love -- they call themselves "a global force for good." I think it applies well to the use of American military power and to your contribution to that power. Need an example? How about the country you live in: remember that the Empire of Japan leveled the equivalent of Pacific command headquarters 69 years ago. Today, we are working tirelessly with our Japanese allies around the clock in Operation Tomodachi. Japan is a constitutional democracy, has the world's third largest economy and is the closest of American allies -- we stand together in the Pacific.

Your service also adds immeasurably to your own life. Hopefully, the concept of putting others' needs ahead of your own will follow you into the civilian world. Our country has issues and needs -- education, disease, poverty, immorality -- that can only be solved by dedicated and motivated volunteer citizens. Ask someone who has volunteered for Misawa Helps or the Special Olympics or organized a cancer awareness fun run or built a house for Habitat for Humanity and they'll tell you how much impact service can have on the servant. Never be surprised at the positive difference one motivated individual can have on the lives of others.

Serving in the Air Force makes you a part of something much bigger than yourself. The only way to preserve peace is to always be ready ... honed to a razor's edge ... for war. The world has no shortage of fools who will tell you differently, but history has proven them wrong again and again. Your service, combined with that of your fellow Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and Marines, makes our friends respect us and our adversaries fear us; this makes the world a more stable and secure place. So the next time you see our core values in print -- integrity, service and excellence -- take a moment to think about the value of your own service. It matters ... to you and to your country.