Know the oath, feel the pride

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- A couple months ago, I had the privilege of reenlisting a technical sergeant in my unit.

I was honored to administer the enlisted oath and be a part of this important ceremony. This one single event truly represents who we are as Airmen and should always be treated with the respect and the awe it deserves. Whenever someone commits to a higher calling and pledges everything to one cause, it is truly an amazing thing.

I still remember the first time I was asked to reenlist an Airman while deployed to the Balkans Combined Air Operations Center in Vincenza, Italy. I was fortunate enough to have a chief master sergeant in my flight take the opportunity to provide me some critical mentoring. He told me I better memorize the oath I was about to recite. He said it would mean a lot to that young enlisted Airman who had asked me to administer the oath to him.

So, as any good captain would do, I listened to the chief and spent the next few days making sure I memorized the oath. I was extremely nervous that day, but I remembered the oath and everything went well. I cannot confirm that I got every word perfect, but I never looked at the card I had tucked away in my pocket.

The interesting thing is in the end, I think I appreciated the experience even more than that young Airman.

Although I took a very similar oath when I entered the Air Force and reaffirmed that oath as a first lieutenant and as a captain, I simply repeated the words read to me. Did you know the enlisted and officer oaths have some things in common, but also have some very distinct differences?

If you don't know what the differences are, I challenge you to find out. In my case, I thought about what I was saying, but never truly appreciated the true depth of the oath I took.

After the ceremony that day in Italy, I took time to reflect on my officer oath and what I committed to. In every reenlistment I have administered since, I have taken the time to review the oath so I could recite it from memory.

I have had the privilege to officiate many reenlistments since, and have even done so in both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Reenlisting in the deployed environment truly makes you appreciate the first part of the oath, "I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Pictures like the one above speak for themselves and will always stir emotions of pride and take me back to how I felt that day -- proud to be an Airman.

If you don't know the oath you took, I encourage you to read it again and memorize it. It is the solemn pledge we all took to defend what we believe in at any cost.

When I pinned on major in June 2005, I recited my oath aloud from memory to my friends, family and fellow Airmen present. As I entered the field grade officer rank, it was important for me to know the oath I stand for. Do you know your oath?

I am proud of many things in my life; proud of being a son, a brother, a husband, a father and an American. But when I hang up my uniform each day, I am proud to be an Airman and proud of the profession I have chosen.