Ambassador Airmen

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Garry Berry
  • 554th REDHORSE Squadron
Having been stationed overseas for nearly 14 years of my 24-year career, I have had the opportunity to live in several foreign countries:  Japan, South Korea and Greenland. I have been fortunate to visit countries in Southeast Asia, Europe and even a tour in Iraq. Through all this travel, I was careful to note that I was representing not only my unit, but the Air Force and ultimately the United States. Essentially, I was an ambassador both on and off duty.

As America's Airmen, we are all ambassadors. We must always adhere to the highest standards of conduct and ensure we represent our country in a positive fashion. The Air Force is engaged with numerous countries around the world for a multitude of strategic and economic reasons. This involvement will continue to grow as we work harder to develop partnerships in the Pacific Theater and with countless other nations around the globe. In doing so, Airmen will have the opportunity to interact with a number of cultures in both a military and civic capacity, helping to sustain security and to enhance quality of life for those that are less fortunate. Whether it's volunteering in our local communities around our main operating bases, providing humanitarian assistance after catastrophic disasters like the 9.0 earthquake and devastating tsunami in Japan or building schools and drilling water wells , we as professional Airmen represent America. This is a big responsibility and one that doesn't end with the duty day.

These great accomplishments and positive press gained from efforts can be quickly forgotten if we forget that we are still "under the microscope" when off duty. Being a professional Airman is a 24/7 responsibility, and as American guests in a host country, we should be striving to understand the local culture and be cognizant of things that would be offensive to our hosts. I'm reminded of a quote from our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt. "We cannot do great things unless we're willing to do the small things that make up the sum of greatness." This is exactly the point; the seemingly small things matter. Unprofessional conduct is obviously not consistent with the high standards we expect from our Airmen. It is incumbent upon us to be good wingmen by bringing new arrivals up-to-speed on the local culture, maintaining acceptable norms regarding conduct and intervening before a good time turns into a situation that may reflect negatively on our installations, the Air Force and our great country. Perhaps Aristotle summed it up best when he said, "In the sum of human life, the honors and rewards fall to those who show their good qualities in action."

There's no doubt that our Air Force is the greatest the world has ever known. I've heard it said over and over that our military partners are amazed with the technical competency and professionalism of our enlisted force. We should continue to perpetuate those feelings by continuing to pursue excellence and be outstanding ambassadors for the Air Force and the United States of America 24/7.