Warriors don't always wear uniforms

  • Published
  • By Linda Wilson
  • 47th Mission Support Squadron chief of civilian personnel
A few years ago, I was serving alongside active-duty and reserve Airmen in a declared combat zone, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

There I got the full picture of what my service to this country was all about. There, I was no longer just a civilian doing my job. I was a needed asset to the mission, providing support to fulfill whatever the mission required at any given moment.

Civilians at Incirlik participated fully in exercises, wore chemical gear and reacted to force protection conditions, exercises and real-world situations. We did so because we are all fighting this "long war" -- the Global War on Terror -- and we must all fight to win.

In a GWOT world, heroes don't always wear uniforms. At times, it seems our world is turning upside down with new threats, new enemies, new allies, new equipment, Personnel Service Delivery, National Security Personnel System -- the list goes on.

We're constantly changing and adapting to meet the mission requirements, while at the same time, knowing we need to become leaner and smarter in the way we do things. Our Air Force is made up of all kinds of people with a myriad of skills, functions and capabilities.

Some of us maintain aircraft, while others maintain people at hospitals.

Others work in finance and personnel to ensure we get paid, reassigned and promoted on time, in turn keeping the right Airman in the right place at the right time.

The fact of the matter is today's Air Force is made up of active duty, guardsmen, reservists and civilians who possess talents and expertise we all depend on every day. No group is more important than another, because at the end of the day, it takes one team, one fight to accomplish our mission.

With all that's going on, it's easy to forget some of the members of our team whom we depend on to step up and get the job done.

In addition to the nearly 360,000 active-duty men and women who wear the Air Force uniform, thousands of others serve as civilians, guardsmen and reservists to comprise a total force that makes us the finest Air Force in the history of the world. We all stand ready to face any threat, anytime, anywhere.

This year, amidst personnel reductions, we all need to recognize our nation's Air Force would cease to be if it weren't for the talents and expertise of our Total Force.

As we read and hear about Airmen, civilian employees need to be included in that professional cadre of members who are dedicated to providing global vigilance, reach and power in the defense of the United States of America.

Now, more than ever, those of us who do not wear a uniform must stand up and be counted as integral members of the world's best Air Force who continuously transform, innovate and assess their environment and missions to meet current and future air power challenges.

What is a hero? Take a look in the mirror. You're an Air Force warrior.