Three days in service dress

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- As you might expect, as a commander of a wing that stretches from Ramstein, Germany, to Hawaii, I spend a lot of time on the road and in different uniform combinations. But, I want to tell you about a couple of weeks ago when I wore my service dress uniform three days in a row. Even for me, that's pretty rare: most days, it's Airman Battle Uniforms (ABUs), except for blues Monday and the occasional graduation dinner that warrants pulling out the mess dress. These three days ended up being pretty special for me because they reminded me of the essence of our Air Force and what being a part of this service really means.

On a Wednesday, I boarded a plane and went out to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., and lectured to several hundred majors and joint service equivalent officers and civilians at Air Command and Staff College. I gave them an update on the cyber operations that are taking place in San Antonio and around the world on a 24/7 basis, and how our Airmen are making as substantive a difference in cyberspace as they routinely do in the air, in space, and as a part of ground operations. It was a validation of the quality of our force to see these future leaders immediately start to grasp how the integration of cyberspace operations with other combat effects is one of the 'game changers' of 21st century military operations.

Then, on Thursday, I traveled to Langley AFB, Va., and donned my dress uniform for a much different, but no less important task; for it was my sad honor to present a Bronze Star and Purple Heart to the parents of Maj. Charles Ransom. Major Ransom, a cyberspace operations officer and leader in the 83rd Network Operations Squadron, was killed in Afghanistan in April and in recognition of how he represented each of us as Airmen and the ideals of our service in giving the "last full measure of devotion," the members of his squadron memorialized him and sadly, but proudly, celebrated his too short life of service. It was instructive to me to see how proud his parents were of their son, in spite of their grief. And how proud I was to be an Airman and to have the opportunity to associate with men and women like Charles Ransom.

Finally, Friday came and I returned to San Antonio, and on a day we normally associate with winding down a week, I had one more opportunity to wear my service dress. This time, however, it was to participate in a beginning, of sort. I had the privilege to give the Oath of Enlistment to 702 brand new Airmen who were graduating from Basic Military Training and joining the rest of us as new wingmen and warriors. As I looked into their faces, I could certainly see the exhilaration of finishing one challenge, but also the enthusiasm of looking forward to joining the force, and I was as renewed as I was proud.

Three days in service dress ... and an opportunity for reflection on what it means to be an Airman and gaining a special opportunity to see the strength of our force demonstrated in the intellect and capacity of our leaders, the willingness to sacrifice, and the promise of future wingmen. In an era of austerity and budget cuts, I was reminded ... while wearing service dress ... that the strength of the United States Air Force is truly and finally its Airmen.