An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

NEWS | July 6, 2009

What I Believe

By Lt. Col. Christopher Brooks 89th Communications Squadron commander

As we approach the Fourth of July holiday, I thought it appropriate to share some thoughts on what I believe after 19 years in the Air Force.

I believe that the opportunity to serve our country in the military is the greatest calling that our country has to offer. Every day I wake up, put on my uniform, and find myself privileged to work with amazing and patriotic wingmen who are all focused on defending our country and serving the American people. The Air Force has given me the opportunity to live in foreign countries, interact with people from all over the world, get a great education, meet and marry my beloved wife and learn the art of war and the profession of arms. As if that weren't enough, they even paid me to do it and provided a very competitive retirement plan.

All of the armed services have core values, but I believe the Air Force got it just right. At every newcomer's orientation in my squadron, I tell my Airmen that I truly believe in "Integrity First, Service Before Self" and "Excellence in all we do." In fact, I believe that if you really spend time contemplating on our core values, you will agree that they cover just about everything.

I believe there are three more requirements that Airmen at all levels must pay explicit attention to in the following order: "Take Care of your People, Take Care of the Mission," and "Take Care of Yourself."

Some may be surprised at the order I placed these in, but I believe that you must take care of your people so that they can take care of accomplishing the mission. If you blindly focus on executing the mission at the expense of your people, you may have success in the short term, but without the proper investment in your people, the mission will eventually fail.

In today's Air Force, taking care of yourself means physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We live in complicated and dangerous times and are engaged in two wars. Fit-to-Fight is not a slogan, it is, and must be, a way of life for all Airmen. Our emotional, mental, and spiritual healths are all critical in enabling Airmen to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

I believe the U.S. Air Force is the greatest air force the world has ever seen, and that the military effects our weapons and technology contribute to the joint team are unsurpassed. However, I also believe that what makes the Air Force truly great is not our airplanes, it is our fantastic Airmen. When I say Airmen, I mean that in the broadest sense of the word: enlisted, officer, civilian and contractor.

One of my favorite mantras is that "being good is not good enough if you dream of being great." Our Airmen do absolutely amazing things everyday, and it is our Airmen that elevate our Air Force above all others. Our Airmen are truly remarkable because they are trained, equipped and educated through exercises and real world experiences.

I believe another fact that sets our Air Force apart is the amount of responsibility and leadership opportunities we give our enlisted force. We have learned that it is our highly trained, educated, and motivated enlisted force that is the backbone of the Air Force, and they set us above any other air force in the world. I constantly tell the Airmen in my squadron that they should (must) take advantage of the 100 percent tuition assistance the Air Force offers; the pursuit of a strictly professional military education is not even optional if they want to advance in our Air Force. I believe the New Montgomery GI Bill is the greatest benefit that Congress has authorized for the military in the last 50 years.

In 1985, Whitney Houston sang a song named "Greatest Love of All." The lyrics to the beginning of that song are "I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way." I have never forgotten that song, and I believe that the Air Force has and must continue to apply this theme to all of our new Airmen as we grow our next generation of leaders.

Finally, as we celebrate the birth of our great country this weekend, enjoy the fireworks and spend time with family if you can. If you are in the National Capital Region, maybe my family will see you downtown for the big parade. Wherever you are, I urge you to take a few minutes to reflect on what this holiday means and the critical role the Airmen of the United States Air Force play in preserving our way of life.

In the end, I believe that that, this great experiment that we call democracy, may be the greatest gift the United States has ever given the world. This is what I believe.