A Chief Master Sergeant sat behind his desk, just down the hall from
his commander’s office at ANYWHERE AFB, America. As the chief started
on a second cup of coffee and finished the last of the morning
messages, the commander stepped into the office. “Chief,” the
colonel said, “I hate to ask you this, but you are needed in
Southwest Asia in six days for a 90-day rotation. Can you go?”
With no voiced emotion and without looking up, the chief replied,
“Ma’am, I put on my uniform this morning.”
The colonel, somewhat taken a-back, thought to herself, “The chief
doesn’t usually talk in riddles. Has this veteran of 24 years gone
off of the deep end?”
The wise old protector of the enlisted corps smiled and began to explain. “Ma’am, I made a promise to myself more than 20 years ago, that I would only put this uniform on as long as I’m available for duty. You see, while it is obvious to most air force members, it seems to completely escape others.
‘Available for duty’ means more than the desire to negotiate and
select the premium assignments or choicest TDY’s. It requires us to
go any place in the world the president or officers appointed over
us determines, at any given time. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t
want or receive our preferences. It does mean we’ll go when and
where we are needed and called. Now this may seem overly simplistic,
but, I think everyone can agree: when it comes to defining service to our country, the answer is just that simple.
In today’s world of ‘what can you do for me?’
It’s very easy to lose sight of what ‘service to country’ is all
about. Service goes far beyond the individual; it affects the
well-being of our nation. Sitting in comfortable surroundings, at
your dream base in America, it’s easy to forget the sacrifices we
agreed to endure in service to our country. Sitting in Saudi,
Italy, Bosnia, or maybe Korea, the sacrifices become much clearer.
The bottom line today is that we are an all-volunteer force, and
though our force has been reduced by 30 percent in the last five
years, it remains a highly mobilized, continually-tasked
‘corporation.’ Everyone is vital to its continued success.”
The chief continued by saying, “the Air Force will go on tomorrow
with or without any single one of us; however, the efficiency of any
one of its specific units may be adversely effected by the loss of
only a few.
All of us have the responsibility to report our availability for duty. If someone has a family problem or special circumstances that precludes them from being available, they need to report it immediately. Especially prior to being deployed. If any member does not deploy when called upon, another member must fill that slot. So, any time someone cannot or will not deploy, the ripple effect is felt throughout the Air Force.
Everyone’s family would like them to be home for the holidays. I can’t think of a single person who would intentionally miss their child’s graduation.
And we’re all aware of the pain of losing a loved one and know how
the grief can be compounded by not being at their side in the final
moments. Yes, we are all continually asked to make sacrifices. Yet
some seem to forget that we are serving our nation, and that we are
Who said it was going to be easy?
The leadership of our country depends upon us for being good and true to our word. Every day, each of us needs to look into the mirror before getting into uniform and ask, ‘am I available for duty?’
If the answer is “no,” then we need to notify our supervisor, First Sergeant, or Commander immediately! Then the next step is to determine if the non-availability is temporary or permanent. Then the toughest question must be asked–should that person resign, separate, or retire? There are no gray areas. Everyone must decide for
Finally the Chief looked at his commander, and said, “Ma’am, as i
said earlier, I put on my uniform today, and I’m available for duty.
Do you still need a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to your question?”