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Suck in that gut with service before self

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jeff Walston
  • 917th Wing Public Affairs
In 2002, when I volunteered to backfill the staff at the field training site located on Sheppard AFB, Texas, I never thought it would come back to visit me.

There was this one colonel in a class that sticks in my memory. You see, everyday, at every meal he was the last one in line. When it rained, he was last. If it was hot, he was at the end of the line. When we ran out of good stuff, he did not get any. He just took what we had left and never said a word.

One afternoon I asked him why. He said he was a former Naval officer, and he had been taught to ensure all of his people were fed before he sat at a table. It fostered respect.

Now, I couldn't tell you his name right now to save my life, but I'll never forget that face. For the next week, any time the colonel came near me I stood a little taller and sucked in my stomach. If you have to ask why, then you don't need to read any further.

But, it's important, that I told you that story before telling you this one.

My first Public Affairs assignment of the August unit training assembly was to photograph senior NCOs and commanders serving lunch to the troops for "Services Appreciation day."

Now, most people don't really "see" Services until they have a complaint. They don't see that Services troops are up cooking breakfast hours before they hit the snooze button for the first time. They don't see that Services troops are still cleaning up from dinner as they sit down to watch the evening movie or head out on the town. They probably don't know that Services is an Air Force Specialty Code that requires an airman to be trained at four different jobs and complete career development courses for each one. For the most part all we see is the "cook."

But for one day this past August, we saw more than just a cook above the steam tables. We saw our own NCOs and commanders doing what most of us take for granted. I was fortunate enough to see them all over the period of my assignment.

Now, I can't tell you why or who decided to have a "Services Appreciation Day." I can't tell you whether or not the participants were volunteers or ordered to volunteer.

But, speaking from experience what I can tell you is this. I saw the interaction between troops and participants on the line. The 917th Services Squadron was done proud by the commanders and senior NCOs, just as the 917 SVS has been doing us proud for years.

Now I couldn't tell you all of their names right now to save my life, but I remember all their faces, and the next time one of them comes my way, I think I'll suck in my stomach.