I am an American Airman
Too often I hear the statement, “The Air Force has no tradition…certainly not like the other services.” Or there’s the comment, “The Air Force changes everything all the time. New uniforms, AFI’s, etc….how can we expect to maintain any heritage or tradition?”
I submit there is one decisive, deliberate, and motivating action each of us can take. No matter the position you hold, the grade you wear, or if you are active duty, guard, reserve, retired, every single one of us can implement this small, yet powerful change today. The change refers to a facet of our current culture.
Malcolm Gladwell speaks about culture change in his book, ‘Tipping Point’. In his book, the author posits that even the smallest adjustments to habits, routines, or attitudes can have a significant impact on the culture or perception of an organization, population, or product.
Therefore, I challenge everyone to stop referring to members of our Air Force as ‘TROOPS’.
According to Merriam-Webster, the primary definition of the word troop is:
a. A group of soldiers
b. A cavalry unit corresponding to an infantry company
c. A flock of mammals or birds
I understand a definition is literal, however, there are two problems with the way we throw this term around to refer to our Airmen. First, the word troop is actually plural…referring to a group of soldiers. Lastly, and most poignantly, the word troop is actually rooted in a tradition and heritage of another service. And before we start the “But Chief, we were born out of the Army” conversation, I would ask you to consider a few points.
We were born out of the Army for a reason. We fulfill several needs that no other organization can: to keep up with advancing technology and to take warfighting to an entirely different level, both geographically and mentally. The Army and Navy were long-time competitors for military leadership and neither service thought that the other should take on the new tasks of strategic deterrence missions associated with the advent of the atomic bomb. This, along with many other great reasons, is why our Air Force, and our AIRMEN were created.
Think about it. The United States Air Force was created for some of the most sophisticated warfare challenges of the time.
So, let’s continue the tradition born in 1947 and call each other what we truly are. Please, call me Airman.