Camaraderie is what retains Citizen Airmen

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- As a Citizen Airman, I recently asked myself this important philosophical question: What keeps the volunteer Citizen Airman in uniform? Perhaps a better way of phrasing the same question might be: Exactly what persuades the Citizen Airman to come back for more the next month and month after month? 

After all, Citizen Airmen already have lots of pressing issues in their lives: family, friends, work, school, vacations, projects and the list goes on. And I am certain that every Citizen Airman I ask will give me his or her own reasons as to why he or she keeps coming back. Some of these reasons might include: service, commitment, schooling, extra income, retirement, promotions and, well, that list can goes on as well. 

I am convinced, however, that the single biggest reason the Citizen Airman keeps coming back is the camaraderie imbedded in the Air Force's esprit de corps and the camaraderie he or she has developed with like-minded individuals. 

The work can be hard and the days can be long at the squadron, but when you share the load with people who think like you, it goes by fast. At the end of the day, you can relax, break bread and talk about all sorts of stuff, even if some of it doesn't make sense--but it's ok, because you're tired and everyone understands what you're trying to say. Besides, that's the point where the fun starts. 

Of course, it's not all fun and games in the Air Force Reserve. There's a grain of truth in the sarcastic saying, "the beatings will continue until morale improves." Through friends working in other squadrons, I know that it does not matter which squadron you belong to, or which shop you work in. 

The demand of the greatest Air Force in the world is such that much is expected from each and every Citizen Airman. But the fact that most return for the next drill weekend tells me that morale is high, regardless of the challenges, because the burden and fun go hand in hand and the shared experience builds bonds. 

I still have friends from the very beginning of my time in blue--23 years--who have not tired of me-yet. I say that is a pretty good thing! 

The word 'camaraderie' is defined as, "a spirit of friendly good fellowship." That meaning almost sounds like Forrest Gump's attitude toward Bubba, "My best good friend". Bubba, indeed, was a comrade to Forrest. The word 'comrade' means, "a close friend or associate; a fellow soldier." 'Comrade' has a partial root in old Spanish in the word-'camarada.' For those who speak Spanish, you know 'camarada' means a good or solid friend. 

When I was a Senior Airman, I asked myself this question, "Can I trust these people in time of war?" The fact that I stuck around answered that question. I like to think of camaraderie as an unspoken bond. I have your six and you have mine. 

As I see the end of my ride in uniform, I certainly appreciate the lessons learned, the experiences had, but above all - I appreciate the friendships forged.