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Character, courage, commitment

  • Published
  • By Maj. Steve Ohlmeyer
  • 90th Security Forces Squadron commander
This month we celebrate Women's History Month, a time to reflect and recognize the accomplishments and contributions of women around the world. When you think about the women who have changed the way we view the world and the role of women in it, there are several who immediately come to mind: Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart. Tubman helped hundreds of slaves escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. Anthony led the charge for women's right to vote. Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and changed the role of women in aviation forever.

There have been numerous female trailblazers in the military as well. These women may not be as well known, but played a significant role in opening the doors for women to serve and lead in our military. There is 1st Lt. Cordelia Cook, who served in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II and was the first woman to receive two awards for her actions during the war - the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. Anna Mae Hays, Chief of the Army Nurse Corps, became the first female brigadier general on June 11, 1970 followed only minutes later by the promotion of Elizabeth P. Hoisington, Director of the Women's Army Corps, to the same rank. In 1976, more than 300 women comprised the first class of females to be admitted to the U.S service academies, setting the precedent for thousands more to follow.

This year, the National Women's History Project recognized twelve women as the 2014 Women's History Month Honorees. One of those honorees is Tammy Duckworth, a U.S. Representative from Illinois and an Iraq War veteran. In 2014, she became the first disabled woman elected to serve in the House of Representatives and was previously deployed to Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. She was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom until her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade on Nov. 12, 2004. She lost her legs and partial use of her right arm in the explosion and was subsequently awarded a Purple Heart.

Duckworth, along with the previous women in the article, are excellent examples of "Women of character, courage and commitment", this year's Women's History Month theme. They all made a difference and an impact on their cause because of those qualities. But character, courage and commitment are not exclusive to women. In fact, they are qualities that we as Airmen, regardless of gender or rank, should emulate in order to make an impact on our cause of defending America with the world's premier combat-ready ICBM force.

We all know character means the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. But to me, the character of an Airman boils down to their integrity and their pride in serving. Not every job in the Air Force is glamorous. Not every job is noticed or even appreciated by most of the people who serve. Yet, we know that each and every one of us plays an important part in the overall execution of our mission. We must take pride in that role and we must always carry it out to the best of our abilities.

The meaning of courage is obvious in a wartime environment, but what about in our daily lives? Many of us serve as leaders and supervisors. Whether you asked for that responsibility or not, it takes courage to lead. Not everyone will like or agree with the decisions you make, and enforcing standards or disciplining subordinates may not be easy, but you are charged with shaping and developing your Airmen.
I believe all Airmen can agree that doing the right thing can require courage because following established procedures and not cutting corners or standing up for someone may not be "cool" or the most popular thing to do, but deep down, you know it's the right thing to do. The only question is whether you have enough courage to make that tough decision.

Each of us incurred commitment when we raised our right hand and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. But commitment as an Airman should run much deeper than the time remaining on your service commitment. You should dedicate yourself to not only serving, but making the Air Force a better place when you leave it. Commit to bettering yourself, your flight, your family and your community. Mentor your younger Airmen. Get your degree and volunteer. Commit to making a difference!

As we reflect this month on the accomplishments of women throughout our history, take time to consider your own character, courage and commitment. Our Air Force needs your very best ... are you giving it?