Airmanship: Setting aside personal priorities for the greater good

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. O.G. Mannon and Chief Master Sergeant Kenneth Sallinger
  • 82nd TRW
Staff Sgt. Terral Leak is a name most have never heard. In 2008, Sergeant Leak was presented the Airman's Medal for rescuing a disabled, elderly man from the sixth floor of a burning apartment building. 

Sergeant Leak was on his way to work, saw smoke and drove straight to the scene. It's the kind of heroic story we see now and again that inspires us to work a little harder to live up to our core values. 

There's another inspiring aspect to Sergeant Leak's story.  After the rescue, he stayed at the scene for an hour to assist the fire crews and even help wind the hoses back on to the truck. 

But here's the kicker:  according to the news reports, when it was all over, "Leak raced home, showered and went to work." 

He didn't call his supervisor and say, "Hey, I just rescued a guy from the top floor of a burning apartment building, can I have the rest of the day off?" Nope. He just cleaned himself up and got back to work. 

This is a young man who understands what being an Airman is all about.  It's not a job, it's a responsibility, a lifestyle and a commitment. Airmanship is about service--setting aside our personal priorities for the greater good, on and off duty. There is no disclaimer to the Airman's Creed, and no small print that reads, "During normal duty hours only." We do not hang up our Airmanship with our uniforms at the end of the day. 

Serving in Air Education and Training Command gives us the honor and privilege of teaching the principles of Airmanship to tomorrow's leaders. We can't do that through lesson plans or lectures alone. We must show them what it means to be an Airman. 

Being an Airman means doing what we say we will do, when we say we will do it. We don't need to be told or asked to do what's right--we just do it. We follow orders, keep confidences and put loyalty to our leaders and fellow Airmen above pride and self-interest. 

Being an Airman means behaving professionally in all places and in all circumstances. We obey the law and treat others with respect and dignity. We don't use fun or relaxation as an excuse for bad behavior. We never forget that our example outside the classroom says far more about who we are than our words inside the classroom. 

Being an Airman means putting the mission first. We give up nights and weekends to train and care for the Airmen entrusted to our leadership. We come in early to prepare and stay until the whole job is finished. And no one needs to tell us to do it--we just do.  None of this is new to us--we have been taught these principles since were E-1s and O-1s. Now more than ever, we each need to strive harder to live up to them. 

Whatever our rank or specialty, we're Airmen first and always. Our young Airmen in training need to see us live it every day. There is no other way to teach them what it truly means to be an Airman--"faithful to a proud heritage, a tradition of honor and a legacy of valor."