Heritage sheds new light

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Steve McDonald
  • 86th Airlift Wing Command Chief
Recently, I spoke at the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Seminar, a 3-day course facilitated by the Career Assistance Advisor's office. The course is designed to enhance the professionalism of mid-level supervisors who have not attended formal Professional Military Education in a few years. After the discussion, I invited interested seminar attendees to write a short essay on some facet of enlisted heritage. 

The importance of enlisted heritage cannot be overstated. We must keep the accomplishments of our Air Force and the enlisted Airmen who shaped our Air Force in our minds. It reminds us of where we came from and how far we have come. The often-heroic accomplishments of our predecessors give us pride in serving in the world's premier Air and Space force. 

I was glad to learn that eight of the seminar attendees took the time to write an essay. There were familiar themes in a couple of the papers. Staff Sgt. Amanda Jones and Staff Sgt. Shannon Hill wrote about the accomplishments of historic giants like Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Paul Airey, PFC Vernon Burge, Airman 1st Class John Levitow and Esther Blake. We owe these architects of the Air Force a great deal. 

Other seminar attendees took different approaches to discussing enlisted heritage. Staff Sgt. Edmund Morgan compared heritage to the DNA in our bodies. His view was that heritage makes up who we are as an enlisted corps just as our DNA makes us who we are as individuals. Staff Sgt. Shannon Murphy described how her family is becoming part of enlisted heritage. Her father served in the Navy and now both she and her sister are serving in the Air Force. Staff Sgt. Anna Rodriguez wrote about enlisted heritage in relation to her cultural heritage. She relayed how the Air Force is a new thread woven into the fabric of her life. Staff Sgt. Kimberly Johnson wrote about how the Airmen's Creed can be used to capture heritage from the past and pass it on to present day Airmen. 

As a security forces member, Staff Sgt. Jaime Correa described the rich history of the "Defenders of the Force" and his pride in performing his duties with excellence. Staff Sgt. Michelle Miller wrote about her encounter with living heritage. As an Airman at her first duty assignment, she met Chief Airey. That chance meeting changed her entire outlook on her career and inspired her to strive to do the best she can. 

I have to admit that reading these essays gave me new insight into how people think about heritage. It's more than just the stories of the past. It's what is happening today. It is the accomplishments of our enlisted forefathers but it's also made up of the cultures, personalities and achievements of enlisted men and women serving in the Air Force today. It's the life I have lived over the past 22 years. Every day is history in the making.