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Warrior Ethos: Willing – Able – Ready!

  • Published
  • By Col. Charles Dunn
  • 43rd Mission Support Group, Commander
After 25 years of service fighting for this great country, I'm more than ever encouraged by our great Airmen and what they bring to the fight. I'm convinced Pope's Airmen are fit-to-fight. You won't hear me grumbling about our Airmen; their dedication and tireless efforts are obvious, and their warrior spirit is alive! We are and will remain the world's "guardian of freedom and justice, its sword and shield, sentry and avenger." 

I just left a humbling discussion with a proud Airman, an Airman boiling with pride having just returned from war - beaming with pride for his Airmen, his Air Force and his country. Yes, Lt. Col. Frank Flores, 3rd Aerial Port Squadron, needed to tell the story. Like a million dollar lottery winner, he had to share the story - a remarkable story of courage while under constant threat of attack - a flesh and blood story where warriors died. One of those Airmen died in bed from injuries suffered in a rocket attack. Listening to the account, I felt an upwelling of emotion and became speechless. Immediately, I reflected on another hero, a Pope hero, Senior Airman Ashton Goodman, who died in combat May 26. My emotion switched to hatred toward those who would harm our very best - the innocent, the brave and our guarantors of freedom. 

I'm equally touched by the countless accounts from our Airmen on the front lines, often bragging about their team's accomplishments. I'm OK with this bragging. The pictures speak volumes, especially the pictures of our Airmen as this brings me closer, closer to the struggle, and closer to the dangers, and I'm lifted by their spirit. 

In one such story, earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Craig Franklin, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Commander, recognized the life-saving efforts of one of our deployed civil engineers, "Sergeant Berrier is the kind of Airman who immediately takes action when the situation calls for it." In the article, Jesse was quoted as saying, "the Air Force is small, so I think it's important to volunteer and meet people. You never know what kinds of bonds can be made." I could feel the pride as I read the article and gazed at the picture of Jesse, there standing tall, as if to say "I am an American Airmen. I will never falter and I will not fail." Sounds like my Air Force. 

Here in the U.S., the 43rd Force Support Squadron recently deployed a team of eight members in support of mortuary operations. There is no greater example of "Service Before Self" than the honors rendered for fallen comrades. While helping someone who is alive may return a favor, a service for the fallen provides no such opportunity and exemplifies this core value. Airman 1st Class Rontera Powell, Staff Sgt. Starr Samuels, Staff Sgt. Shannon Gothro, Tech. Sgt. Latersa Frazier, Tech. Sgt. Rabenna Washington, Master Sgt. Mike Tyra, and 2nd Lt. Benjamin Quigley all deployed in support of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operation Center at the Dover Port Mortuary while Capt. Christopher Spring deployed to Aberdeen Proving Grounds supporting the Joint Personal Effects Depot. 

I'm also touched when this same warrior spirit is exhibited here at home, whether a life-saving event on the track, another in the fitness center or the countless lives saved in our community. There's something different about Airmen -- call me different, I'm OK with that -- after all I'm associated with the world's finest. This past weekend was no different. As a Red Cross volunteer, I shared my time with hundreds of Airmen - Airmen who can see beyond themselves to something bigger than themselves. The camaraderie was amazing - these Airmen made a difference and persevered in trying circumstances. The Rock and Run Fest was the first of its kind for a North Carolina Red Cross Chapter. I spent the whole day Saturday observing the best perform outside their comfort zone, yet never complaining as they worked through two thunderstorms, always in tune with their safety and the safety of the public. Surely the people took notice. No matter where Airmen work and play, they'll astound us and make us proud. It occurred to me about half way through the event: Airmen were helping the American Red Cross so the American Red Cross could, in turn, return the favor. 

I spent my weekend with the finest - over a hundred Pope Airmen, civilian, military and retired. To top it off, Pope won the Military Team Challenge 10K Run thanks to our team captain, Master Sgt. Roy King, 43rd Force Support Squadron and his team: 2nd Lt. Katherine Bopp, 43rd FSS, Senior Airman Xanadu Moldenhauer, 43rd Communication Squadron, Senior Airman Steven Bowers, 43rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Senior Airman Christian Pagan, 43rd FSS and Senior Airman Evon Pennington, 43rd Medical Support Squadron. Our Wing Commander, Col. James Johnson, was there to deliver the trophy. Willing - Able - Ready!