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October Chief's Perspective

Chief Master Sgt. Dayne Peterson, 169th Fighter Wing command chi

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Dayne Peterson, the 169th Fighter Wing command chief at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, July 3, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Edward Snyder)

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

Several months ago I was having a discussion with some Airmen about the Minuteman statue and what it means to us as Air National Guardsmen. I was somewhat surprised at the lack of knowledge of the history but should not have been. They didn’t know because they haven’t been taught. So in this month’s Chief’s Perspective I am going to share a little history of the Minuteman statue and what it has meant to me personally over the years.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “Minutemen were civilian colonists who independently organized to form militia companies self-trained in weaponry, tactics, and military strategies from the American colonial partisan militia during the American Revolutionary War. They were known for being ready at a minute's notice, hence the name.” In the British colony of Massachusetts, all able bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to participate in their local militia. As you can imagine, men between those ages were also busy trying to carve out a living in the new world. Many of them were farmers. The traditional statue of the Minuteman is a figure holding a musket in one hand and a plow handle in the other. His coat is draped on the plow as he hurriedly puts down his plow to run off to face an enemy. In effect Minutemen were the original homeland defense force much like our present day Aerospace Control Alert mission.

As a young Airman the Minuteman statue was an indicator of the level of pain I was going to face on Sunday afternoon of drill weekend. Let me explain. Early on in my career I only knew the statue as a retirement gift. Back in those days at the 178th Fighter Wing they would present Minuteman statues to all of the retirees during a Sunday afternoon formation. Yes every Sunday of drill there was a Wing formation, strategic reserve versus operational reserve just saying. The number of statues on the table beside the podium was a clear indicator of how long we were going to be standing. As my career progressed I knew the statue as something to be avoided until I at least made master sergeant. I remember thinking on Sunday afternoon in formation, “Please do not let me be the Airman getting my minuteman as a tech sergeant.” Fairly common back then and as I realize now that I have matured nothing to cause shame.  

As mentioned in the previous sentence and as hard as it is to believe I have matured as has my understanding of the Minuteman statue. The Minuteman statue is a symbol of sacrifice. Still commonly given as a retirement gift and sometimes as a going away gift it symbolizes the sacrifice made by the Citizen Airman. Additionally, it symbolizes the sacrifice of the families left behind. In the example of the statue specifically, when the Minuteman drops the plow handle to defend the nation someone has to pick it up. Fields still need to be planted.

The next time you see a statue of a Minuteman presented, notice a picture of one on a wall, or see it on a uniform patch remember the heritage and sacrifice it represents. It is a symbol of great Americans. Americans like each and every one of you that are willing to put their lives on hold to protect and defend State and Nation.