The Airman’s Creed: What it says, why we need it

  • Published
  • By Maj. James B. Bullard
  • 452nd AMW Executive Officer
One month ago today, the Air Force unveiled the "Airman's Creed". In four short statements the creed recalls a heritage reaching back to the days of Billy Mitchell, defines who we are today and looks ahead to the force of the future. Until now, only the Air Force was without its own creed. So, what does it say, and why do we need a creed? 

I AM AN AMERICAN AIRMAN. We are not just any Airmen - we are American Airmen, and that means something to our friends and foes alike. To our friends, allies and coalition partners it means having your bigger, stronger brother at your back. To our foes, it means having that big brother in your face. Personally, I would prefer not to be on the business end of a USAF strike package rolling in on me from somewhere out of the blue. Who else can deliver persistent, precision power from the air the way we can? The Air Force motto answers that question: "No One Comes Close." 

I AM FAITHFUL TO A PROUD HERITAGE, A TRADITION OF HONOR AND A LEGACY OF VALOR. The creed also reminds us of a heritage, tradition and legacy uniquely ours. As far back as the 1920s, when powered flight was still a pimply-faced teenager, Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell was making a lot of very unpopular noise about the combat value of airpower. Turns out he was right, but his prophetic passions earned him a court-martial for insubordination and demotion to the rank of colonel. Nevertheless, he is regarded as the Father of the U.S. Air Force. 

Our Air Force heritage is studded with some of the greatest military and aviation minds in the history of our country, many of whom saw duty right here at March Field: Hap Arnold, Jimmy Doolittle, Curtis LeMay, Carl "Tooey" Spaatz, Benjamin Davis, Nathan
Twining, Hoyt Vandenberg, Ira Eaker and Chuck Yeager, to name just a few. 

Of all the armed services, ours is the only one which dominates in two inhospitable physical domains: air and space. We, above all (literally and figuratively), control the skies above and space beyond. Mastery of the "high ground" is our calling and mission and no one does it better than us. 

In addition, we are the first service to recognize and exploit cyberspace as a legitimate war fighting domain. We have been a high-technology fighting force since our official beginning in 1947. Control of air, space and cyberspace requires the best minds our nation can produce and we have them in the Air Force. Not everyone who wants to be an Airman is given that opportunity - a place in our organization is reserved only for those who have what it takes to make it and contribute to the mission. 

A GUARDIAN OF FREEDOM AND JUSTICE, MY NATION'S SWORD AND SHIELD, ITS SENTRY AND AVENGER...I WILL NEVER LEAVE AN AIRMAN BEHIND. We are a combat-ready force. We are an expeditionary force. We are an agile, responsive force. We are warriors. With increasing regularity, Airmen are being called upon to deploy on a moment's notice and engage the enemy in combat operations - on the ground. And just as regularly, Air Force Reservists and Air National Guardsmen are right there beside their active duty counterparts. 

Pay attention to this - this is not only a present reality, it is our future as well. These days, it is not uncommon for non-aviation Airmen to see more action than fighter pilots. My own boots were on the ground in Iraq, every day, for six months. Perhaps yours were,
too. You can expect more deployments, to more unusual locations, doing work never before attempted by the U.S. Air Force. 

Plan on more "in lieu of" assignments, working alongside Army and Marine Corps infantrymen, riding lead and rear gunner positions in convoys. Anticipate duty on the front lines of combat. Expect your war fighting skills to be honed continually and do not rule out the possibility that one day you may be required to kill the enemy before they have a chance to kill you. This is war, and we are in it, up close and personal. 

Why, then, do we need a creed? Our Air Force has been so completely challenged and transformed by the Global War on Terrorism that we can no longer afford the luxury of pre-9/11 thinking. We need to adapt to this new world order, to see things as they really are and to see ourselves in our new roles as 21st century Airmen.

The creed is a lens and a mirror. If we take it to heart, we will see the world around us through the eyes of our nation's "sword, shield and sentry." If we allow it to reflect back to us, we'll know ourselves as the warriors we are called to be. The Airman's Creed is
only ninety-four words in length. But in those ninety-four words lies your identity for as long as you wear the Air Force uniform.