SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Based on some discussions I’ve had with Chief Master Sgt. John Bentivegna, 50th Space Wing command chief, and as a retired veteran, I want to talk about some traditions I feel seem to be eroding away. I feel that I have a responsibility as a wing senior leader and veteran to ensure we don’t forget about some of these traditions because I enjoyed them when I was on active-duty. I enjoy them today and I hope they continue when I’m gone.
The first tradition that I remember as a young officer was the formal military dinners known as dining-in (members of a wing or unit) and/or dining out (spouses, guests are included). These are the formal aspects of our social life in the Air Force, the wing, the group and the squadron. Without getting too deep into a history lesson, many articles and websites state the origin isn’t clear but formal dinners have been rooted in antiquity from Roman times, the Vikings and the knights of England in which feasts were a custom to honor military victories and unit/individual achievements.
The Air Force custom probably started with Gen. Henry Hap Arnold. These formal functions served as an opportunity to meet socially, enhance esprit de corps, provide an avenue for all ranks to create bonds of friendship, give the commander an opportunity to meet with their subordinates, and establish working relationships through fellowship.
I remember it bringing us together as a “family” to have a little fun and let our hair down so to speak. Over the years, I’ve seen them less often than when I came on active duty in the early 1980’s. It’s very unfortunate, and I hope to see some resurgence as this is an important part of our AF tradition. Recently, the Mission Support Group invited the Wing Staff to participate in a combat dining-in and it was a success.
The second tradition is the promotion ceremony. I’ll be honest with you. I didn’t have a ceremony until I made Major. I showed up for alert with first lieutenant bars on when I was supposed to show up with captain bars on when I attended classes at Squadron Officer School. As I look back, it would have been nice to have at least had the opportunity to thank those who had the patience to mentor me over those few years and get me started in my career.
I believe it’s more important today to recognize our Airmen and at the same time give them the opportunity to thank those who have impacted and played a significant part in getting them there. We need to take the time and do these things even if it impacts our day-to-day operations.
It’s amazing what a few minutes can do for an individual and even a unit from a morale perspective. I would agree that ceremonies can take longer than they should, but in the end it’s worth the time and effort and it’s an important tradition we need to maintain.
The third tradition is the retirement ceremony. Sometimes people don’t want one because they don’t want to be a burden. However, I believe that it’s much more than that. It’s about celebrating the Airman’s contribution to the whole Air Force family. The impacts that person had on other Airmen’s lives and careers are tremendous. It’s an opportunity for those around them to say thanks and recognize and thank their family for their patience and dedication. Many civilians retiring have been around for 30 plus years and need to be recognized with accolades as well. I encourage the military leaders to not forget them.
The last tradition is our daily observance of reveille and retreat. Over the years, I’ve heard many people complain about the time they took to stop what they were doing because reveille or retreat was taking place. Even those times when a wing has an official formation. I will admit I caught myself grumbling about it and I would arrive before reveille, or leave after retreat so it wouldn’t impact me. I’ve even found myself standing in the hallway, waiting for reveille or retreat to finish, or stayed in my car when I should have stepped out and rendered the proper respect.
Recently, I was caught when the speaker started to play retreat and I grumbled about the impact of delaying me after a long day. When I looked up I saw military and civilians stopping or ducking into their vehicles and building to avoid paying respect. I began to feel disgusted as I remembered the meaning of reveille and retreat. As a lover of our history, my mind rushed back, thinking of those before us that served and those that paid the ultimate sacrifice and I cried and felt ashamed of the way I felt. Taking a few moments every day is not that much of a sacrifice.
We can’t forget about these traditions. We can’t just skip them because we don’t have the time, it’s too much of a trouble, we are impacting people’s time, they are too expensive, it’s after duty hours or whatever the excuse. This is how traditions die because we’re not willing to take the time and sacrifice a little of our day. As an AF family we need to sacrifice a little to maintain the family balance and to care and feed the family.
Otherwise it’s nothing but talk that we are a family. So, today I’ve started something new to keep one of the traditions with me. Every day I will go outside and pay my respects to the flag for reveille and I will do the same for retreat. I hope that maybe if you see me out there standing that you’ll come out and join me. It’ll be a few moments of joy in my heart and soul. Take care and see you around the installation.