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What is 60 years of heritage to an Airman?

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A year ago last May I entered the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in my home town back in Oklahoma, knowing I wanted to do something better with my life I was faced with four choices, four doors that would lead to completely different opportunities and lifestyles for that matter.

Since then people have asked me why I chose the Air Force.

I can give three reasons:

Discipline, Educational Benefits and Belonging

Growing up with my father living 200 miles away, discipline was not a strong point in my life. I was not a terrible kid, I don't have a wrap sheet and I didn't have to lie about anything to my recruiter to get in the Air Force.

However, I wasn't meeting my potential. I was uncertain about where I was going in life and how I was going to be a "productive member of society".

My Air Force career, like most Airmen, started with a man in a smoky the bear hat yelling at me to get off a bus. I was surrounded by mass confusion, more yelling and a completely new environment. An environment, that thrived because of the intense discipline that my TI's demanded.

By the last week of basic training I had learned how to properly lace my shoes, make a bed and most importantly roll my t-shirt into the size of a coke can. These little things to civilians were unimportant nuances that they don't have to deal with, to me they represent discipline.

Discipline, that will allows me to take advantage of my second reason for joining.

Today's Air Force takes pride in the fact that every Airman has to have the equivalent of a High School Diploma before putting on this uniform.

In a world where the average citizen can access the internet on their cell phone, or use Global Positioning satellites in their vehicles, an educated Airman is not a want but a necessity.

From the time that the Airmen graduate from tech. school he or she is not only expected to be able to perform their job, but also be able to provide an intellectual outlook on the mission.

The educational aptitude of Airmen makes the Air Force at only 60 years of age a leader in military operations.

An educated Airman does not create a pawn on a chess board, but a player in the Global War on Terror.

The Air Force's role in the Global War on terror is big. From support ground troops through the air, intelligence missions and launching satellites that allow American troops to link up and discuss enemy positions. This mission feeds an innate desire.

Since I was a little boy, and could comprehend the geopolitics of the world. I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, something which leaves the world a better place.

Joining the Air Force fulfilled this desire. Whether it is providing humanitarian aide to South America or liberating a nation of a merciless dictator in the Middle East, the Air Force is changing the world.

It is my belief that everyone has the desire to belong to something bigger than one's self.

The Air Force itself understood the importance of fulfilling this desire in 1949. When the Air Force at only two years of age made a statement to its Airmen, to its sister branches, and to the American people, that any Airman willing to risk their life to protect the freedom of these United States, should be treated equally... The Air Force became the first branch to desegregate its forces.

It is no coincidence that my search for discipline, higher education and belonging ended with the Air Force.

Since its conception in 1947 the Air Force has been apart of six different wars. Wars that due to the quick air support of the Air Force, were fought completely different than those of the past. With the hard work of disciplined Airmen, the question changed from which building will we bomb to which window in that building will we put the bomb through?

49 years ago Vandenberg Air Force Base opened and would soon host actual Rocket Scientist that would lead America and the world into exploration space.

Since 1947, Airmen across the world have been waking up every morning putting their uniform on and looking into a mirror and realizing that the name over their left pocket is more important than the name over their right.

I started this by telling you of four doors representing the different branches of the armed service. I left out one door. There was the door that I took to enter the building. Many people never choose to go through that door and many of those people never get the chance to impact the world like each of you are everyday.

In closing, I would like to leave you with this question. If you never walked over that threshold where would you be today? If you didn't join the Air Force how would your life be different?