Warrior ethos needed to obtain objectives

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Gordon Wager
  • 445th Airlift Wing Command Chief

During our July unit training assembly, a trainee within the Development and Training Flight asked me, “Why did you join the military and why do you continue to serve?” I took a moment, thought to myself, “With today’s fiscal constraints, operational LIMFACs (limiting factors), and political divisiveness, it can become very hard to stay mission driven or inspired.” However, it did not take long for me to answer with “My why”, a higher calling and care for Airmen!

My time in security forces taught me to cultivate a warrior’s mindset. One must mentally become more stoic, disciplined, and humble, while appreciating solitude and developing their strengths and skills to accomplish an objective.

As I talk to Airmen, all too often I’ve heard, “warrior mentality” doesn’t apply to me within my job. I would like to contest that logic. We need to abide by a warrior’s ethos.

The Webster Dictionary defines warrior as: a person engaged in a struggle or conflict; and ethos as: a distinguishing character, principals. We may be identified by our Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) or by your group within the wing. However, we are warriors, and we must share the same ethos.

Our profession of arms is the heart of who we are as a force and should unite us! Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne Bass recently released a memo highlighting the importance of maintaining standards. Our Air Force standards separate us from our sister services and private citizens. As a warrior, these Air Force standards (or ethos) should remind you of expectations of both society and your fellow warriors.

As warriors, we should be proud of our traditions and honored to swear (affirm) an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Warrior ethos is personified throughout history: the spartan warriors at Thermopylae, soldiers in Battle of Gettysburg, the heroic Doolittle Raiders, Master Sgt. Chapman’s will at Robert’s Ridge.

Our wing embodies a warrior’s ethos: Vietnam Prisoner of War (POW) Maj. Gen. Edward Mechenbier, countless operational deployments, humanitarian missions, and the Hanoi and Afghanistan airlifts.

It is my belief; the warrior ethos will be pivotal in our future. As the great power competition endures, near peer adversaries escalate proxy wars, we need to improve our technical knowledge and sharpen our tactics during home station training. We use acronyms such as ACE (Agile Combat Employment) and MCA (multi capable airmen), but we must truly understand how we, the 445th Airmen, can perform these duties while executing national security strategy objectives.

We can no longer rely on “just in time” training, thinking we will win future wars. It will not happen.

Archilochus stated, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” In addition to our technical knowledge, we must pursue personal development and take an active part to shape our character by displaying moral courage and embodying our core values. In a previous assignment, we challenged our Airmen to be quiet professionals, above reproach, with relentless effort. These sayings became our mantra throughout the wing; resulting in increased capabilities and resiliency. 

A warrior ethos is not limited to those who have a requirement to wear the uniform. Our civil servant Airmen may not be obligated to practice our profession of arms, but do take an oath of office and serve as continuity within their respective organizations. They are critical to daily operations inside their units impacting wing success. They are ever vigilant and know when something or someone is out of place. This awareness makes them a significant part of our security and our mission success.

The U.S. Navy Seals, who also embrace a warrior mindset, have a creed. Part of that creed states: “We train for war and fight to win. I stand ready to bring the full spectrum of combat power to bear in order to achieve my mission and the goals established by my country. The execution of my duties will be swift and violent when required yet guided by the very principles that I serve to defend.”

I challenge you to self-reflect and ask yourself, am I ready now? Are we prepared to transform for the future?

Again, thank you for the warm welcome. Beth and I are humbled and extremely proud to be part of the 445th family!