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NEWS | June 30, 2008

What bonds us?

By Col. Robert J. Dutterer 316th Security Forces Squadron commander

I am constantly amazed at the character of our military people who secure our nation's liberties. As an Individual Mobility Augmentee, people often ask "When are you going back to your civilian job?" and the first thing I ask myself is why would I want to leave a job where I can be around great Americans?

What is it about our military personnel and specifically our Airmen? Is it a deep love for their country? Is it patriotism? What drove Pat Tillman to leave a multi-million dollar professional football career and instead give his life in the service to our nation?

Or Tech Sgt. Anthony Capra, an Explosive Ordnance Technician with the 332th Air Expeditionary Wing? He died from wounds he received from an Improvised Explosive Device. Multiple deployments, a wealth of experience, he was an expert in his field. He was also a husband, a father, and a friend. At the memorial, his comrades stated, "Sergeant Capra exemplified all the characteristics that being an EOD operator demands. He thought quickly and clearly under pressure, he took charge of any situation, he had a keen eye for details, an astounding memory and courage without measure. Tony loved the EOD mission and took great pride in defeating the enemy's most deadly weapon -- the improvised explosive device." What makes a person perform these types of extraordinary actions?

Or in my first hand experience, Staff Sgt. Travis Griffin, truck commander, Detachment 3, 732nd Air Expeditionary Group, who was fatally wounded by an Explosive Formed Projectile while traveling the streets of Baghdad. Sergeant Travis patrolled violent Iraqi neighborhoods, protecting convoys, training Iraqi police units and generally building the security backbone expected to one day keep Iraq stable. Travis was on his fourth deployment to Iraq his seventh in the Middle East. He was always the lead vehicle and he was always in charge. His mother said, "He died doing what he loved." So what drives a person to make such a sacrifice?

So what is it we share? It seems bigger than patriotism, or professionalism or Esprit de Corps. I found a word that I believe fits. The definition of this word reads: loyalty, faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness, dependability, devotion, and commitment. The word is fidelity! Think about it. The devotion exhibited by Airmen across the globe, total commitment, and total conviction ... the word is fidelity.

Fidelity to our country, our service, our unit and to each other. Fidelity is our common purpose and the bond that unites us. We need to encourage and nurture it.

In my short six months with the 732 AEG I saw incredible examples of fidelity. Security Forces training Iraqi police in the most dangerous streets of Baghdad. Weapons Intelligence teams securing IEDs/EFPs. Engineers training Iraqis so they can re-build a country depleted from years under the rule of a dictator. Logisticians moving equipment and personnel throughout the dangerous roads of Iraq. Inteligence Analysts exploiting information. The list goes on and on and throughout Iraq, Airmen are answering our nations call.

I am an American Airman, I am a warrior, I have answered my Nation's call ... the first three lines of the Airman's Creed summarize our mission best. This is a time for American heroes. We're serving our country during some challenging times. We're securing peace in a time of global conflict, sustaining hope. More than anytime in recent history, America's destiny is challenged. We will do what is hard; and we will achieve what is great. Let fidelity be your watchword ... let it guide your way.