Wanted: More men like Mike

  • Published
  • By Col. David Lynch
  • 341st Security Forces Group commander
I have a recruiting advertisement hanging on my office wall with large, bold print, stating, "WANTED...More Men Like Mike!" With artist's pictures and captions, the advertisement outlines "Mike's" military life from high school to the end of his first enlistment. At the bottom of the page it reads, "The young man of today who wants to get ahead can continue his education and start building a career at the same time. Each man's abilities are charted, to place him where he should develop rapidly. He can work on the frontiers of military science with career-minded young men like himself and serve his country with true professional pride."

With all the male pronouns, this is obviously an old recruiting advertisement; in fact, it's from a July 1950 magazine! With the exception of gender, this suggestion is no less true today than it was in the 50s. Today, we not only have the privilege to serve our country, we also experience a lifestyle with benefits most of our high school or college classmates would envy.

To be honest, I've been an Airman since I graduated from high school many years ago, so I don't have first-hand experience of civilian employment with the exception of part-time jobs stocking supermarket shelves, delivering pizzas and guarding an office building on the night shift to make ends meet as a young Airman. But, I think it's fair to say most civilian companies can't compare their benefits package to what we enjoy as part of a larger Air Force family. If you are trying to decide if you want to continue to serve in our Air Force, here are some thoughts to consider.

Do you remember the day you marched in your basic training graduation parade, recited the Oath of Office at your commissioning ceremony or started your first day of government service? Do you remember the pride you felt? You still feel it, don't you? I vividly remember how I felt taking my oath and the look of pride on my wife's and daughters' faces...it's a lasting memory! How about the feeling you get when you're off base in uniform and an elderly person wearing a Korean War or Vietnam Veteran ball cap thanks you for your service. How many other professions do you think share the same sense of pride we have wearing our uniforms or receive the same type of public thanks? Next time you talk to a former high school or college classmate and discuss professions, ask them what level of emotion their job invokes. I'm not suggesting ours is the only occupation to instill pride in one's job, but our profession of arms is one of the few in which all members share a sense of camaraderie with each of the 320,000-plus Airmen in our Air Force family.

A few months ago, we experienced a tragic accident and saw our Air Force family really come together like families do to take care of one of our Airmen. Commanders, first sergeants, supervisors, coworkers, chaplains and medical providers all pulled together to offer whatever they could to help the young Airman and his wife through a very trying time. The Air Force flew the Airman's parents to Great Falls, provided lodging arrangements and provided a full-time liaison to assist the family and the Airman to cope with the many challenges they faced. Everyone, military and civilian, reached out to help because it's what families do. After a couple of months in the local hospital, the Air Force moved the Airman and his wife to San Antonio for extended medical care. Three chiefs, a colonel and a liaison officer from the local security forces unit met them at the airport because it's what families do. Today, they have a house at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, while he continues his medical care. When you talk to your high school or college friend, ask if their employer takes care of them like our Air Force takes care of us. They'll probably admit they don't have the same sense of family with their job.

Some of you might argue our sense of family and feeling of pride defending our nation are remarkable but they don't pay the bills. I'd challenge you to consider the bills we don't pay, like medical insurance. In 2012, the average health insurance cost for a family of four was more than $7,100. Think about the long-term health effects of other no-cost benefits we enjoy, such as the fitness center, free services for marriage, stress or even diet counseling to name just a few. Are you still thinking, show me the money? Okay, let's look at retirement plans. During your discussions with your schoolmate, ask how their pension plan is doing? Ours is backed by the government. Will they have one million dollars before they are eligible for social security? You can if you are a military member, in fact, you can have more! A retired master sergeant with 20 years of service can retire at 38-years-old and not only get a monthly check to cover the mortgage, but the cumulative retirement amount will be more than $1,000,000 when your friend is just getting ready to retire.

Our Air Force family takes care of us and our loved ones from the first day of our employment, through our retirement years and beyond with survivor benefits. So, whether it's personal pride, a sense of Air Force family or financial benefits, being an Airman is an incredible job and a great way of life, and all the while, we get to defend our nation like "Mike" did more than 60 years ago.