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April Chief's Perspective

Chief Master Sgt. William Clark, 169th Fighter Wing weapons safety manager

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. William Clark, the 169th Fighter Wing weapons safety manager at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, Feb. 20, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

I was recently approached while in uniform by a curious older gentleman who observed an arm full of stripes and wanted to ask me a few questions such as my grade, what military life is like, and what was my profession. The final question was the toughest when he asked why I chose to do it for so many years. This one hit me somewhat off-guard for a moment, as I had about a million memories race through my mind recollecting over the years and I had no clue where to start. I paused a few seconds, for me what seemed like minutes, and was dumbfounded at how in the world I was going to fit thirty plus years of memories and experiences into a one sentence answer. We each have our own host of a thousand reasons why we serve in the military from one end of the spectrum to the other. For some, it may be the available benefits and entitlements offered or career opportunities and for others, it may solely be the desire and motivation to uphold our nation’s defense. To finally answer the gentleman’s question, I simply told him “because I am a member of the finest fighter outfit in the world, the 169th Fighter Wing”. I think he genuinely understood.

Some of us may have a long family tradition of military service where we follow in their footsteps and some of us may be a first from our families to serve. No matter the reason, we each have a very important purpose to fulfill. All of us together make up the sum parts of this premier fighting machine. Without each of us in fine working order, so too the whole machine will not be in fine working order. We are in the profession of arms. The important duty we are called upon to perform for our nation and our state is far beyond just a noble deed or a patriotic act. We are true professionals. We are Swamp Fox professionals! We each volunteer to serve, knowing the risk and sacrifice, and our family sacrifices also, that military service may require us to pay the ultimate price one day. This commitment to nation, state, and organization is what makes us a cut above.  

Our leadership knows what our mission is and they know why our organization exists. Their success depends on our success. Each of us should be able to identify with our mission and strive to do our very best to achieve it. We each have to understand our roles as the stakeholders of our own organization. Each of us, in vastly different roles, make up the foundation on which the 169th Fighter Wing stands. From the lowest ranking person up to the highest, we are all absolute equals as stakeholders of the organization. We may not all develop into expert leaders however, we certainly all can develop into experts of our given field. As productive members of the wing, we each have a responsibility to make the organization better. The best way I can think to make our organization better starts by members striving to make themselves better. It is our duty to maintain the highest readiness levels, both personally and operationally, to stay combat-ready for tomorrow’s fight.

Readiness is our game and the development of all Airmen, both officer and enlisted, equals readiness. Supervisors play a major role in development but it is vitally incumbent on each of us to understand self-development/career development, accomplish our required training and continually advance our career field skill level expertise. Continue your military and professional education and finish your Community College of the Air Force degree. Every Airman will have a different road to success throughout their career but understand the road may lead to a dead end when we fail to meet requirements. For the older types, understand the importance of integrity as a leader. As for the younger Airmen, enjoy the journey and gain the experience needed to excel at the next level. Take every opportunity to learn and grow in the position you are filling.