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NEWS | May 12, 2017

Why we serve – a common oath

By Chief Master Sgt. Nathaniel Perry 11th Wing

This July, our great Nation will celebrate 241 years of age and The Constitution of the U.S., which lays the foundation and provides the blueprint for our republic, will turn 230 years-old.  Over the course of these years, we have become the most powerful nation on the planet and a symbol of freedom for others to aspire. 


These freedoms we now enjoy come at a cost—the blood, sweat, dedication, and sometimes lives of certain professionals who pledged an oath to make it so.  This is due to their dedication to what they hold true; to what we hold true.  This status is not only because of our belief in the words laid out by our forefathers in the Constitution, but because of the men and women who have raised their right hand and took the oath to defend it.


Even after 24 plus years of serving, I can still remember that winter in New Orleans when I stood in the MEPs station next to a group of young men and women and marveled at the man in uniform who asked us to raise our right hand and repeat, I, state your name, do solemnly swear or affirm…. 


At that moment, we pledged an oath to something bigger than ourselves.  We pledged an oath to our way of life.  To fully appreciate the milestone of taking the oath of enlistment, I think it is important for us to understand the history behind the military oath and to have a deeper understanding of just how important this oath is to what we do every day.

In ancient Roman religion and law, the sacramentum militare was the oath taken by Roman soldiers as a way of pledging loyalty to a specific general during a specific campaign.  Initially, the oath was taken annually or whenever a new general was appointed, but this later changed to a one-time oath that stood for the 20 years a soldier was required to serve.  The oath was only fulfilled by death or by demobilization. 


The custom continued to evolve as time went on and eventually, reached our young nation.  Two years after the Constitution of the U.S. was signed, the first bill in the first session of the first Congress was passed and it established the oath required by military and civilian officials to support the Constitution. 


The oath continued to evolve and we now have an Oath of Office for our officers and civilians and an Oath of Enlistment for our enlisted members.  These oaths have guided our loyalties for all the years that have followed.


So why is it important to know and understand our Oath of Enlistment?  From our Core Values of Integrity First, Excellence in All We Do, and Service Before Self to our Airmen’s Creed, everything we do is rooted in this oath we took to defend our Constitution.

Our country and our Air Force have continuously been in the fight since Operation Desert Storm and you have been on the front lines.  You have defended it because of the oath you had taken just as I had many years ago at a MEPs station.


We all pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies.  We are brothers and sisters-in-arms because of this oath and we have an obligation to each other as well.  Let us never forget this oath, or why we serve as we shout the Airman’s Creed or embody the Core Values.


Each day, we execute duties that are part of a larger strategic objective levied upon us by our officers to accomplish the mission.  We are all subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and we have other guidance we follow such as Air Force Instructions and guidance memorandums. 


I’ve already mentioned the fact that we have been at war for some time and we have an obligation to always be ready to support and defend our Constitution.  We volunteered to do this.  Each time we reenlist, we volunteer and we take this oath. 


In conclusion, the Oath of Enlistment that each of us have the honor and privilege of taking is granted to us by our Constitution, the very Constitution we defend.  The military oath has a long, rich tradition and our young nation has adopted it and used it well.  It is important for us to know the history of the oath and understand why it is important to us today.


Let us take a quick look at the oath courtesy of PACE (


I (name) do solemnly swear (or affirm):  Signifies a public statement of commitment.  You are accepting responsibility for your actions.  (Integrity First and Service Before Self).


That I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States:  you are swearing to support the Constitution which symbolizes the President, Country, flag, and all things included in the Constitution. (Airman’s Creed).


Against all enemies, foreign and domestic:  We must always be prepared for current and future wartime operations. (Service Before Self and Airman’s Creed)


That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same:  An active decision on your part, delegated to no other, yours alone to make.  Weighing the costs, in liberty you choose.  (Service Before Self)


And that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States; and the orders of the officers appointed over me:  I respect senior leaders and decision makers and will follow all legal orders.  (All Core Values and Airman’s Creed)


According to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice:  I will honor and uphold all military rules and regulations.  (All Core Values and Airman’s Creed)


So Help Me God (optional):  Signifies truth and commitment to what you have sworn in the oath.  It is a call to a higher being or divine agency to assist you with ensuring your own integrity and honesty.  (Integrity First)


If you would like more information about the Oath of Enlistment, please visit the link to PACE below;