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January Commander's Corner

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas “Wade” Rivers, commander of the 169th Communications Flight, South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, April 24, 2015.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Thomas “Wade” Rivers, commander of the 169th Communications Flight, South Carolina Air National Guard at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, April 24, 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- Why did you join the military, or more specifically, the South Carolina Air National Guard? This is a question I ask potential members seeking to join the Communications Flight (or the South Carolina Air National Guard in general) and during periodic career interviews for current members. The answers I receive vary depending upon a multitude of factors to include what point the member is in their career, do they come from a military family, and many other variables.

The main answer I am looking for, unfortunately, is not the most common reason expressed. The answers I do hear include; educational benefits, extra money, technical skills, resume material, something to do, military experience, life insurance, and medical benefits just to list a few. All of these are good reasons but one in my opinion should stand above all of the reasons listed above. The answer I am looking for, which is the main reason I joined, is to serve this great country that we are all so fortunate to live in. I wake up every day and thank God for blessing me with the privilege to be an American citizen and physically able to serve the country which I so dearly love.

This country fills its military ranks with an all-voluntary force, which ensures we have members that want to be here. I take great pride in serving side by side with other like-minded individuals. Serving and being willing to sacrifice your time, your own well-being, and even your life, for the safety and benefit of others is one of the greatest achievements one can accomplish. Not everyone is able to serve due to a multitude of disqualifying factors, but for those that can, should consider it an honor and privilege to do so.

I don't want to discount the other reasons I receive for joining. They are all good answers but should be considered secondary to one's willingness and desire to serve in the protection of this great nation's defense and history of freedom. We are tasked to carry on the traditions and duty of those that served before us. We should honor our fellow military members that have served before us - many of them sacrificed all and laid down their lives to ensure we remain free.

We should consider ourselves extremely fortunate to earn membership into such a small group of individuals that are tasked with the responsibility of keeping our country free and protecting its soil and citizens. During more recent discussions I have noticed that our very young members rarely mention in their reasons that they joined to serve our nation and I have to admit that this concerns me.

When I do conduct and interview for new or existing members, I listen carefully to their responses to see if I can get a sense of why they are military members. If I don't hear the main reason I am looking for, I try to coach or lead them to an understanding of how important their service is and what is means for the future of our country. In many cases, the member leaves the meeting with a new understanding of why they serve.

Hopefully, with proper mentoring, we can impress upon our younger members the attributes of serving other than one's self. I don't believe that most are only in the military for the tangible benefits they receive. I feel it is our duty to help them realize their potential and importance to this great nation.

With that said, I would like to thank each and every Swamp Fox for their service and dedication to this outstanding organization, state and nation.  Remember, "Integrity First", "Service Before Self" and "Excellence In All We Do".

Semper Primus.