Tag Archives: uniform

Women’s History Month: granting a last wish

by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

I never had the honor of meeting Mildred McDowell, but she inspired an experience that taught me about the undeniable camaraderie past and present Air Force members share.

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I was working at Airman magazine in early 2011, when one of the writers, Randy Roughton, traveled to Illinois to interview the 103-year-old McDowell. At the time, she was our country’s oldest living female veteran.

In his story, published in the March/April issue, Roughton mentioned that McDowell, who joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1943 and later transferred into the Air Force, wished to eventually be buried in her Women’s Air Force uniform–which she no longer possessed.

As a staff, we were touched by the many calls and emails we received from service members three and four generations younger than McDowell, offering to track down a replacement uniform. It had been more than 40 years since she had retired, and people still appreciated her service and felt inspired to honor her.

We were told that McDowell was thrilled when she was presented with the uniform later that year.

“She was very proud and pleased that she would be able to be buried in her uniform,” said her grand-nephew, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Stan Giles of the 134th Air Refueling Wing at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Tenn.

When she died at the age of 104 on Nov. 15, 2012, McDowell was buried in her uniform in Ramsey, Ill., about 75 miles north of Scott Air Force Base.

Learn more about pioneering Air Force women on the Women’s History Month page at AF.mil.

Hold the Line: We live in a fishbowl

by Chief Master Sgt. Cynthia M. Solomito
AFGLSC Command Chief

Have you ever walked through a store parking lot in uniform and had someone stop you to say, “Thank you for your service”? Have you walked through the airport in uniform while deploying and had other travelers stop and shake your hand? As military members we represent our units, our service and each other. Military members stand out in a crowd.

One day I experienced a different situation. I was driving to work and stopped at the local gas station to get gas. As I was standing by my SUV at the pumps, I saw a car pull into a parking spot by the store. An Airman jumped out of a car with just his t-shirt and ABU pants, no shirt and no hat. Before I could do anything, he came out with a cup of coffee and package of cigarettes, jumped in his car and took off. As fate would have it, he had a pretty recognizable car so I asked the first sergeants if any of them knew the Airman. He was attending Airman Leadership School. My plan was to stop by ALS and just talk to him for minute. It’s funny how we know when we have done something wrong (what is the definition of integrity?) because as soon as he saw me he knew what I was going to say. The conversation was short and I asked one question: why? Does the answer really matter? He knew it was wrong and made the choice to disregard our dress and appearance standards. Some Airmen would turn their head and not address the issue. Do two wrongs make a right?

I believe we live in a fishbowl and our behavior is watched where ever we go. Our country places high standards on the men and women of the United States military and they expect us to be above reproach at all times. You never know who is looking. Let’s face it — with technological advancements over the past years, nothing is secret. Look at the YouTube videos, cell phone pictures and Facebook conversations that find their way into the media. The military has been in the news quite a lot the past year with our people displaying some questionable behaviors. One bad act can completely ruin our image and overshadow all the wonderful things our men and women have accomplished. Are we ready to face the consequences of our actions?

So what is my point? We are an all volunteer force; no one can make us enlist. When we are at basic military training we learn standards and are taught the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. When we have doubts, we even have an Airmen’s Owner’s Manual, otherwise known as AFI 36-2618, The Enlisted Force Structure. Beyond what we have been taught we need to do the right thing and hold the line. Ask yourself, “Would my actions make my mother, father, sister, brother, spouse or fellow Airmen happy?”

Re-blued

 By Senior Airman Ulla Stromberg
99th Inpatient Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician

Being from Manhattan, Kan., an individual isn’t exposed to too terribly much. Cuisine was only as worldly as the Chinese/American buffet and entertainment rested in a dive bar or bowling alley. The one thing about this community, however, was the people. Being home to the students of Kansas State University and a great many of our soldiers from Fort Riley, the majority of the population’s faces were constantly changing. Human interaction and the life experiences heard from those soldiers and students broadened our worldly horizons.

Senior Airman StrombergAs I grew older, I was more informed and cognizant of the purpose of the military member. I loved hearing their stories and began to notice how those realities behind the tale developed their admirable character. I would watch those uniformed men and women at the local grocery store who always maintained an unwavering sense of purpose and seemed slightly more considerate of their loved ones who were with them. My eyes were opened when I realized this consideration came from the thought that the moment I had observed may have been due to this family seeing each other for one of the first or last times in the midst of a seemingly endless deployment season. I admired their sacrifice, their selflessness. To me, the uniform stood for a great many things. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what in the world occupational badges or rank insignias stood for. I just knew as an outsider looking in that the uniform stood for sacrifice. Sacrifice brought discipline and discipline brought pride and purpose. I enlisted in the United States Air Force at the earliest opportunity.

Because we are human, it is easy to fall into routine, to become complacent. However, one must always remember how they felt upon graduation from basic military training (BMT) when they received their Airman’s Coin. BMT pushes you, it brings you to hell and back but what emerges is a polished and refined individual who now sees the color of the flag in a brighter shade of red, white and blue. My advice is to always remember that moment, that character transition, and to remember that “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you.” You traded a day of your life to come into work and put on that uniform. Make it count. If you remember these things, with the aid of your wingmen and leadership, ANYTHING is attainable.

Quote by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1944, D-Day.

Photo:U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ulla Stromberg, a 99th Inpatient Operations Squadron aerospace medical technician, takes the blood pressure of Airman 1st Class Matthew Lancaster, a 99th Air Base Wing photographer, April 4, 2011, at Mike O’Callaghan Federal Hospital at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Stromberg was recently named one of the Air Forces’ 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year. The Outstanding Airman of the Year Ribbon is awarded to 12 enlisted Airmen who display superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements throughout the year. Air Force Association officials will honor the 12 recipients September 2011 during the Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stephanie Rubi)

Our veterans, my heroes

By Col. George Farfour
90th Missile Wing vice commander

As we approach Nov. 11, Veterans Day, I am reminded more readily that those of us wearing the uniform have a special bond with those who have worn the uniform — our veterans. We share an identity that transcends any differences we may have. We unite in a duty to serve and sacrifice for our great nation, to ensure liberty and freedom continues to have a solid foundation in America as the beacon of hope for the world. I submit for your consideration the story below which occurred earlier in my career. Remembering this story helps frame for me, on a personal level, our obligation to our veterans. I hope it does for you as well.

After an uneventful visit to the base barber shop, I thought I would kill some time in what had promised to be an uneventful day. I decided to visit the clothing sales store — not to buy anything, but just to browse around.

Upon entering, I circled around toward the book section to see what was new. As I picked up a copy of some book, I noticed out of the corner of my eye an older gentleman, perhaps 70, struggling to pick out some merchandise. I paid closer attention and saw he was having trouble reading the tags.

Not wanting to appear patronizing, I just watched a while, not offering any assistance. As time progressed and he made no headway in his search, I felt something inside tell me to help. Maybe it was the small Purple Heart pin on his hat that motivated me, I really don’t know. Slowly, I moved toward him and asked if I could help him find something.

I was relieved when he turned and pleasantly said, “Yes, I can’t seem to find the American Defense Service Medal ribbon.” Immediately, I noticed a sheet of paper organized in lists in one hand and ribbons in the other. He was obviously reconstructing his old ribbons and medals for display or wear.

We worked through the list together, talking as we went. He told me how he was finally going to get all of his medals together and put them in a shadow box on the wall for his grandchildren. He had recently received word that he was awarded several medals and decorations from World War II that were forgotten as he was a medic assigned to another unit. The list outlined awards and decorations from World War II and Korea.

As we double checked the list, he explained what each attachment meant. “This arrowhead means an amphibious assault landing — went in on the first wave at Normandy. This Combat Infantryman’s Badge means I was in continuous combat with the enemy for 30 days in a row. We got this one and the Combat Medic’s Badge. This is a new one, the Prisoner of War Medal. Didn’t have that one when I was a POW. This one here, we all got for going to defend South Korea in 1950.”

He didn’t brag, he just stated matter-of-factly what they all meant.

In the course of our conversation, he learned I was an Air Force officer. From then on, he addressed me as “Sir.”

He acted glad that I’d helped, and was even more appreciative when I asked the clerk to run a copy of the “order of precedence” ribbon chart for him to take home. As he walked to the counter to pay for his ribbons and badges, I told him I was honored to help him. He replied, “Thank you, sir.” I thought it was odd for a man of 70 to be calling me sir, but I guess that’s just the type of man he is.

As I walked toward my car, my thoughts turned to the hundreds of injured soldiers he must have helped, the faces he must have looked into and reassured as bombs fell around them and bullets whizzed by, the helplessness he must have felt as he watched someone’s son, husband, father and brother die in his arms. The great exhilarations of battle, the fear of death he faced each day, all swirled in my head. Each time his country called, he was there, ready to do what had to be done. I owe him — we all owe him, and all those like him — for what we have today. This world is not perfect, but it is closer due to their sacrifice.

From the beaches of Normandy to the hills of Korea, he served his country with pride and, from the number of awards, with great distinction. There are many veterans out there with a similar story. Whether it is the jungles of New Guinea, the deserts of Africa, Kuwait or Iraq that their stories highlight, the frigid cold of a Korea or an Afghanistan winter or the rainy season in the Mekong Delta, they all have done this country a great service. When we think of war, we tend to think most often of the dead, but Veterans Day is a day to also remember all those who served their country. Gen. George S. Patton said it best in a post-World War II speech: “Everyone always talks about the heroic dead, well damn it, there’s a lot of heroic alive ones out there, too!”

We see those “heroic alive ones” every day. Perhaps it’s a Veterans of Foreign Wars cap, a sticker on a car, a pin on a suit, a Purple Heart license plate, an American Legion shirt, or maybe it’s your dad, grandpa, brother, sister, uncle or just a close friend. If you see one of these “heroic alive ones,” go over and shake their hand just to say, “Thank you.” It’s a small gesture, but a meaningful one. Their greatest pleasure, or payoff so to speak, is the freedom we still have, due in large part to their sacrifice and example.

I met a hero. And though I haven’t been asked to do what he did, I’m ready, when my country needs me. Meeting him, seeing his example and accomplishments, strengthened my resolve and boosted my pride. Some people say there are no heroes left, our kids can’t look up to anyone. Well, I say they’re blind. Heroes are everywhere … you just have to look.

I met one in clothing sales.