I Love My Airman … Is That Too Touchy Feely?

  • Published
  • By CMSgt. Atticus C. Smith
  • Command Chief, 388th Fighter Wing
You don't need to look far to find a person who proudly proclaims "I Love My Airman." Many novelty items such as bumper stickers, pins, buttons, and shirts express the sentiment. There's even a Facebook page. So what is love? Certainly an age-old question, maybe one of the most difficult questions for mankind; however, definitions are easy to find. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines love in many ways: strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties; affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests; warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion; the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration; to hold dear.

As a wing command chief, I directly work for all airmen. In the midst of all those airmen, I serve as a frontline supervisor to one airman. In each relationship I'm not bashful to express that I love my airman and I love my airmen.

I love my airman. There are many like her but this one is mine. She's dedicated, professional, and eager to learn. Her smile sheds light on my darkest days. When she takes leave or is gone for an extended period of time, such as attending airman Leadership School (ALS), I miss her company. During those periods, I worry about her well-being more than normal because I lose the ease of accessibility to look her in the eyes each day. Momentarily visiting her at ALS or sending her a text message just isn't the same. I'm grateful for our relationship. During her initial feedback session I expressed that we have a special tie. Her personal and professional conduct represents me, and my personal and professional conduct represents her.

If that was too mushy, I recommend you stop reading.

I love my airmen. There are many wings like this one but this one is mine. The airmen are dedicated, motivated, and extremely hard working. The amount of things that come together on a daily basis by the collective efforts of our airmen is absolutely amazing and sheds light on my darkest days. When I take leave or go TDY, or when an aviation package deploys, I miss my airmen. During those periods, I worry about their well-being more than normal because I lose the opportunity to "circulate the battlefield" to look as many airmen in the eyes as possible. Even while at home station; it never seems there are enough chances to make all the rounds to ensure a proper balance across the pillars of wellness: physical, emotional, social, and spiritual. That's why I'm so thankful to have so many wingmen to help.

Frontline supervisors, senior NCOs, first sergeants, officers, and an army of base-wide helping agencies help express our love for our airmen. I'm grateful for those relationships because it's only when we have a community of caring that we will engender an atmosphere where airmen, who may be struggling with life's hurdles, feel comfortable seeking help or merely just talking about it. But that's too touchy-feely and there's no room for that, or is there?

For the past several years, senior Air Force leaders have advocated the need for our airmen to "get back to basics." With that sentiment in mind, some people contend that the Air Force has become too touchy-feely. I'm not quite sure I subscribe to that line of thinking. To me, back-to-basics means reinvigorating our discipline, professionalism, attention to detail, and enforcement of standards. Can touchy-feely be included? So what is touchy-feely?

Being touchy-feely merely means emotional openness. I'd contend that when we take into consideration our ops tempo, manning and funding constraints, and the overall stress on our airmen and their families, we must create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable opening up. There's nothing wrong with that and there's nothing wrong with people who open up. It's a sign of courage when people share their life's struggles. Typically, atmospheres where people feel comfortable opening up is one where people feel special, devoted to, admired, worthy, valued, and have a bond with others.

Can I dare say that it's an atmosphere where they feel loved? Or is that too touchy-feely?

Bring credit and honor to the U.S. Air Force and take care of each other in all your actions.