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The most important Airman

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The United States Air Force, and the Army Air Corps before 1947, has grown into the premier air force in the world. Time and again we have shown our capability. We have gotten so good that we've changed the way wars are waged. 

Airpower has come a long way since Gen. Billy Mitchell fought for a separate air force. Every Airman that has ever served deserves recognition for this outstanding accomplishment. 

As the 21st century dawned new challenges and new enemies emerged, ones that required our skills not only in the air but also on the ground. As dawn breaks in Iraq and Afghanistan we have Airmen providing close air support to fellow Airmen on the ground, while others load C-17's that reduce the number of convoys on the road. Each task is vital to the mission and every Airmen is charged up and ready to do whatever is required to get the job done. Being deployed makes it easy to see why every Airmen is important, making us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves and keeping morale high. 

When we return to home station our self-worth and feeling of accomplishment can diminish, often we feel less important at home than when we are deployed. This past week I was at the 509th Mission Support Group conference and listened to some of our outstanding Airmen brief the conference on their deployment experiences, they were excited about what they had done and very proud to tell their stories. Talking with them afterwards the gleam in their eyes faded when talking about what they do day-to-day at their duty locations, and that concerned me for several reasons. 

One reason was I had felt the same way when I returned, and others I spoke to at the conference had felt similarly. These were colonels and chiefs, and if we felt that way we wondered how we could help Airmen understand just how important home station operations are and how they fit into the success of the mission. 

Having several days to think about it here's what I came up with. 

We as leaders have to do a better job of explaining to our Airmen how important they are. It doesn't matter what specialty an Airman has, what rank they are or what squadron they are in. What matters is how well each one of us does our duty. What we do is not just a job, it is a commitment to serve our great nation and every Airmen deserves to know they are important to the mission. One is not more important than another. Let me repeat that, no Airman or the duties they perform is more important than another. 

Then I wondered how to bring that message home to the 509th Bomb Wing, the one and only B-2 wing in the world. We offer a capability that no one else in the world does, the ability to put a bomb on any target, in any location, at any time. Every Airman in this wing is vital to that mission and should know how important they are to the success of this wing. But simply having this capability is not enough, our Airmen need to know without them we cannot succeed. Our capability is called on more than most of us know, and every time the 509th BW has answered the call because every Airmen in this wing did their part and did it well. 

In a time where our nation's leaders doubted the abilities of the Air Force, this wing showed everyone we know how to take care of business and brought credibility back to our service. It wasn't one Airman that did it, it was more than 2,000, and not once but multiple times. Your dedicated service and your drive to succeed has made every inspection that came through here a validation of our ability to meet the nations call. More importantly, you've shown the world that if they had any doubts about our capability to hunt down and kill our enemies it was a mistake. 

Be proud of what you do, be proud of the 509th BW and be proud of the outstanding service you provide to your country. This wing cannot fail because you will not let it fail, the greatest Airmen to have ever served are serving today and the finest among them are here at Whiteman AFB. Hold your heads high and know that your duty is important to our success and to the freedom of billions around the globe.