Faithful to a proud heritage

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Elizabeth Harwood
  • 14th Civil Engineer Squadron Commander
On Oct. 31, 1943, Lt. Hugh O'Neil became part of aviation history when he made the first successful radar-guided interception in his F4U Corsair.

Guided by Maj. T.E. Hicks and Tech. Sgt. Gleason on the ground, he shot down a "Betty Bomber" over New Georgia of the Soloman Islands. He flew from Munda, an airfield captured from the Japanese in August, then repaired and expanded for the United States by military engineers in only 10 days.

Fifty years ago this month, the Air Force Prime Base Engineer Emergency Force, or Prime BEEF, program was established. With its establishment, Air Force engineers began providing direct combat support in Vietnam and continue to provide superior contingency engineering today.

Prime BEEF engineers have responded to countless natural disasters including floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and record freezes.  They've bedded down forces all over the world from Vietnam, to Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  In Iraq alone, more than 18,000 Air Force engineers served between 2003 and 2011, opening 206 operating locations and conducting more than 36,000 explosive ordinance disposal missions.

Gen. Robin Rand, Air Education and Training Command Commander, said at the 2014 Air Force Association's Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition, "History makes you smarter, but heritage makes you prouder."  The lessons of World War II and Vietnam engineers are more than just stories about old people.  Their "Can do, Will do" motto and legacy inspired engineers that followed in Iraq and Afghanistan and is applicable to all Airmen, now and in the future.

Knowledge, skills and abilities make up "can do."  The Air Force recruits those with ability, then trains and exercises to develop knowledge and hone skills.  Just as important as being able to complete a task, is the attitude and willingness to do your best.

"Will do" is comprised of values, motivations and personality.  The Air Force core values provide a framework for all Airmen, but each will have different motivations and personalities. Leaders inspire and bring together Airmen with different motivations and personalities, driving them toward a common goal.

A positive attitude can remove roadblocks to mission success. It's infectious and inspires others and can often make up for a lack of experience because the desire to succeed motivates people to acquire the necessary skills. The engineers at Munda didn't set out to open the airfield in record time, but with the right people and the right attitude, they were able to accomplish the impossible.  You can too with a can do, will do attitude!